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December 1998 Issue
Appetizers for the Holidays!
by Philip R. Gantt
Table of Contents | Single-page view

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Oysters on the Half Shell

For those who like seafood and shellfish, this is an excellent choice for that fancy dinner accompaniment. Fresh oysters can be procured at most fish markets. It is important to select those oysters whose shells are tightly closed. The smaller oysters will be more tender. When the shells are open or easy to open, then they are already dead and will not make the best table fare. Clams may also be prepared on the half shell per these instructions.
  • 1 dozen fresh oysters (allow 3 to 4 per person)
  • White wine
  • ½ cube butter
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, fresh grated
Open the oysters with a short, stiff knife. This may not be easy if they are really fresh, so follow these directions for best results.

Hold the oyster shell against a cutting board vertically, with the part of the shell which is joined, in your hand. Put the edge of the knife at the opposite end of the shell with the tip of the knife pointed downward toward the board. If the knife slips, you don't want the blade moving toward your hand! Penetrate the portion of the shell which separates the two halves. Wiggle the knife tip if necessary while maintaining a downward force. Once the tip of the knife begins to enter the shell, twist the blade to pry the two halves apart. Once the halves are separated enough, let your fingers do the rest of the work. Don't worry if the shell cracks.

With the shell halves separated, scrape the oyster meat out of the shell with the knife and rinse both the shells and the meat. Select the unbroken shells for serving. Prepare the garlic butter by putting the chopped garlic and butter into a small skillet and heating over medium heat. Turn off the heat when the butter has all melted.

Place each of the oysters in a half shell and baste with a little melted garlic butter. Put one-half to one teaspoon of white wine in each shell and sprinkle with a little of the parmesan cheese. Just before serving, put the oysters in the broiler for three or four minutes and serve immediately. Do not overcook or the result will be tough and chewy.

Oysters can also be served raw, if that is to your liking. Merely prepare the oysters as above, but instead of the garlic butter and cheese, just squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on each oyster. An option is to serve lemon wedges on the side or to provide Tabasco sauce with the oysters and lemon.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes
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