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.
The recipe comes by way of my French sweetheart, who grew up on oysters in the South of France. This is his cherished mignonette recipe which he makes every time we have a gathering to enjoy oysters.
By the way, according to him, "mignonette" translates roughly into "cute, small, and tasty", and that's exactly what this is.
Mignonette Sauce for Oysters
- 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
Finely mince the shallots:
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.
Stir in white vinegar, rice vinegar, sugar, salt:
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.
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.
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
Sparkling rosé mignonette from Peter of Kalofagas