Eat Oysters the Right Way
The season for oysters is in full swing. Or… is it? Is that old adage that you should only consume raw oysters in a month that contains the letter “r” actually true?
What if you want whiskey, not Champagne, with your oyster?
Well, I am here to tell you that some of those rules and rituals you have been worrying over are wrong.
That’s all according to Nico Romo, owner and chef at NICO, which opened in Charleston last year. He is the world’s youngest French Master Chef, one of only 66 people with the distinction in the world. After eating about 24 oysters per day along the East Coast while researching for his new restaurant, Chef Romo has a lot to say when it comes to raw oysters.
From serving them alive to splashing expensive Scotch in the shell, the chef explained the 5 ways we have been eating oysters all wrong.
The adage about avoiding oysters in May, June, July and August is a warning, not a rule, for warm-water oysters sourced from places like New Orleans or South Florida, since higher temperatures can breed bacteria.
So, stick to cold-water oysters from Canada all the way down to South Carolina on the East Coast, if you want to eat them year round. And they just taste better. “It could take three to four years for a cold-water oyster to grow and that’s where great flavor and texture develop,” Chef Romo says.
The presentation of oysters on ice is pretty, but oysters do not like being shocked. When displayed on ice, the Top oysters can end up room temperature, while those touching the ice might be freezing. At home, leave them in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
It takes up to 8 mins for an oyster to die once the muscle is cut. That is why the flavor of those you have straight off a boat is remarkably vibrant.
In American restaurants, the muscle is usually cut at the raw bar, to make shooting easier. However, “in Europe, we do not cut the muscle,” says Chef Romo. If you truly want the freshest flavor, it never hurts to ask your server if they can send them out uncut.
Cold-water, premium oysters are delicate in size and in flavor.
You will find nuances in the brine, often a little sweetness and even light citrus, that will disappear if you cover them in cocktail sauce. While you will find an array of hot sauces, a classic mignonette, and even horseradish ice on the NICO menu, Chef Romo suggests leaving them for the warm water oyster, or not adding them at all.
“We provide sauces for guests who might want them, but I always advise eating the oysters without. Without, you get the oyster in its natural state, with the full effect of its true flavor,” he says.
Champagne’s bright effervescence certainly compliments a briny oyster.
However, the soil and sea that influence an oyster’s flavor are also famous for influencing something else, Scotch whisky. At NICO, the Scotch Oyster is a popular request, paired by the bartender.
A White Stone oyster from Virginia will come with a peaty, Bowmore 12-Year, a Mookie Blue from Maine with a honey-toned Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or. The ritual is to splash the oyster with the whisky before shooting it, and to rinse the interior of the shell with whisky again, for one last drink.
By Jenny Adams
Paul Ebeling, Editor
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