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.

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Mignonette Sauce for Oysters Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about a cup and a half, easily enough for several dozens of oysters.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

 

Method

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.

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Links:

The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell - a fascinating book about the history of New York City, from the perspective of the oyster trade. By Mark Kurlansky.
Asian mignonette, with rice vinegar, ginger, shallots, and coriander from Jaden at SteamyKitchen.com
Mignonette granita - a lot like our mignonette, but in shaved ice form, from Umami Girl
Asian pear mignonette from Greg at SippitySup
Sparkling rosé mignonette from Peter of Kalofagas

15 Comments

  1. Becki's Whole Life

    This sounds wonderful. A great little sauce with lots of flavor for popping oysters in my mouth – yum!

  2. BJ

    Elise I have a question about shallots I’ve not found answered….when a recipe calls for shallots does “shallot” refer to the entire bulb, or one of the cloves in the bulb? I’ve always assumed since the addition isn’t written like garlic (re number of cloves) that it means the entire bulb. I may, however, have been adding the wrong amount all this time, as reading the recipe above I would take it to mean 4 large cloves from a bulb.

    Thank you for clarifying for me!

    I’ve always considered a shallot to be an individual clove, not the entire shallot bulb. ~Elise

  3. Steve-Anna

    Wow, we really are two peas from the same pod! I found a source for fresh blue point oysters here in Tucson (yes, really!) and just shucked some yesterday. Of course I made my version of a mignonnette, too. I simply use the rice vinegar with a dash of lemon juice, so I’ll try the vinegar combo next time.

    How would you describe the benefit of using both? I would imagine the addition of the white vinegar would make it slightly more “clear”?

    I have to admit to being a *huge* fan of horseradish with raw oysters, so I usually layer that on top of the mignonette, too.

  4. Chef Connie

    Great recipe. My family used to go crabbing at Dillons beach on Tomales Bay. Great memories. I will be coming out to California soon with my teenage daughter and cannot wait to take her to that part of California.

  5. Jimmy Crackcorn

    Zuni Cafe in San Francisco prepares it with one part Champagne vinegar, three parts Champagne, shallots and fresh cracked black pepper. Bring the liquid up to a boil, shut down then add the remaining ingredients and chill. Its perfect!

  6. semiswede

    Oh how I love oysters on-the-half-shell. My favorites by far are Island Creeks. When I lived in Boston one of our good friends was best buds with the owner of Island Creek Oysters. We would go on a ski weekend each year with a bag full of oysters that was so huge everyone could have as many as they wanted. You just needed the stamina to shuck them all. Simply divine. That spoiled me beyond belief. If only Sweden weren’t so far away. Guess I’ll have to spring for some Swedish or French oysters to give this a try.

  7. Angela

    How funny,just yesterday I was in the nearby town of Arles and we had oysters in a place called bar des lices, I was writing up about it today and couldn’t think of what to call the Mignonette, (I think I called it vinaigre au échalotes).I like Tabasco with oysters and I asked the bar man if he had any, he looked at me as though I had insulted his own grandmother, but sent somebody off to go and get the pepper mill for me instead, it had white pepper in it which he assured me would enhance the taste of the oysters.

  8. Anna @ the shady pine

    This sounds perfect to place on top of fresh delicious oysters!

  9. Carolyn

    I really enjoy mignonette sauce with my oysters. My husband likes the regular cocktail sauce. I have turned a few people on the the sauce. It enhances more than the red stuff. That seems to cover the oyster taste. We have Chesapeake bay oysters here and Chincoteague oyters

  10. Mymy

    Shallots aren’t very commom in my side of the world (Philippines), but someone recently introduced me to a sauce quite similar to this. Only she uses finely minced onions and adds a tiny bit of fish sauce. Then she fries up thinly sliced onions until brown and almost crispy. The acidity from the sauce with the sweetness from the fried onions come together with the oysters and they have a party in your mouth. yum…

  11. Kelly

    This is our standard sauce as well, but after having tried a frozen version at The Metropolitan Grill in Seattle, we’ve started serving it that way. Sort of a sorbet or granita for your oysters.

    Just make the mignonette and then freeze it. Check back before it freezes totally solid (which of course will depend on how much you’ve made and how deep your container is) and scratch it up with a fork.

    You end up using a little bit more, so it’s worth making a larger batch than normal if you’re planning to serve it frozen.

  12. Katie

    I am obsessed with oysters lately! Just can’t get enough of them. A good mignonette can not be undervalued. I love your blend of two vinegars. I had a mignonette at a restaurant on Saturday night made with Sherry vinegar. It was way too overpowering. I am definitely going to try yours when we have an oyster party next month.

  13. Reem | Simply Reem

    This looks so so perfect!!!
    I love the color of this beauty….
    Simple yet packed with loads n loads of flavor.

  14. Mark L.

    Great local source for fresh oysters (and other seafood) in Sacramento is Sunh Fish, 1301 Broadway, inside the Asian food center. Miyagi’s are around $.60 each and kumamoto’s for $.95.

  15. curiouscook

    please mince your shallots opposed to relying on a food processor. The end result will be dramatically superior. By mincing (not chopping with a chef knife) the flavor/juice will remain intact until crushed by your teeth with enjoying the oyster resulting in enjoying the sauce to as it was originally prepared.

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