Mignonette Sauce for Oysters
Do you like raw oysters? My brother Matt lives in Point Reyes and has access to wonderful oysters from Tomales Bay. Lately he’s been bringing a few dozen with him when he comes to visit. The oyster eaters among us gather and have quite the feast when he arrives.
My favorite accompaniment to fresh, raw oysters is this mignonette—a piquant sauce made with vinegar and shallots that you sprinkle on top of the oyster, much like a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s a lovely balance to the briny, somewhat creamy oysters.
By the way, according to my resident French expert, “mignonette” translates roughly into “cute, small, and tasty”, and that’s exactly what this is.
Make the mignonette at least 4 hours ahead of time, preferably a day or two, which allows for the flavors to blend, and the shallots to mellow.
- 1/2 cup minced shallots (about 2 1/2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup clear, unseasoned rice vinegar*
- 1/8 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoon of finely crushed white peppercorns (do not use pre-ground or powdered white pepper)
*If using seasoned rice vinegar, omit the sugar and salt
1 Peel and coarsely chop the shallots. Put them into a food processor and pulse a few times, until the shallots are finely minced, but not mush, with pieces no smaller than the tip of a match. You can also finely mince by hand if you wish. The advantage of using a food processor is that the food processor bowl captures all of the liquid released by the shallots as they are minced, which will enhance the flavor of the mignonette.
2 Place the minced shallots and any liquid released from them in a non-reactive (glass or pyrex) bowl. Add the white vinegar, rice vinegar, and sugar and salt. Stir with a fork. Add the freshly crushed white pepper. Stir with a fork.
3 Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours. For best results, store for at least 2 days before using. The mignonette flavor will be better blended the longer it sits. You may notice that the crushed white peppercorns may sink to the bottom of the bowl as the mignonette rests. If you see this, just give it a little stir.
The mignonette will last up to a month in the refrigerator.
To serve, shuck the oysters. (Here is an excellent video by Serious Eats on How to Shuck an Oyster.) Make sure that the oyster is loose in the shell before serving. Usually the mignonette sauce is served in a small bowl with a small spoon, alongside the oysters on a platter (or as the French say, "plateau de coquillages"). People can scoop a small amount of the mignonette (1/8 of a teaspoon or so) onto their oyster before eating.