When I’m planning a menu for entertaining, I’m always looking to serve dishes that will a) make my guests feel special and b) help us create fun (and delicious!) memories together. One of the best and easiest ways I know to accomplish both goals is to kick the party off with a generous platter of icy-cold oysters on the half shell.
Shucking the craggy bivalves becomes second nature after a little practice (see below for a tutorial) and then all that’s left to do is nestle each shell—carefully cradling the plump, creamy morsel and its salty liquor—in a deep bed of ice.
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A squeeze of lemon or a basic oyster mignonette sauce will light up the crustaceans’ briny, umami-rich flavors, but it’s even more fun and celebratory to offer something a little different—and more glamorous. Enter Senior Editor Lan Lam’s Red Wine Vinegar Mignonette Granité, which puts a frosty spin on a traditional French mignonette.
What Is Mignonette?
Mignonette is a savory, tangy sauce of vinegar, finely chopped shallot, black pepper, and sometimes sugar and/or herbs that’s spooned atop raw oysters just before serving.
Why Is It Called Mignonette?
The term “mignonette” derives from the French “mignon,” which means cute or small and sweet. It refers to the cracked black pepper that’s always included in the sauce.
How to Make Mignonette Granité
Creating a frozen, textured twist on a classic oyster mignonette sauce simply requires combining the ingredients in a shallow bowl and freezing it and then scraping the frozen mixture with a fork to create icy flakes. The result is a tangy, savory, boldly flavored version of the coarse ice dessert the French call granité.
Finely grating the shallot makes the mixture easier to scrape, and stirring in coarsely ground pepper after scraping adds a more delicate crunch.
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Red Wine Vinegar Mignonette
½ cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons finely grated shallot
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
In shallow bowl, stir together vinegar, water, shallot, and sugar. Freeze until fully frozen, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. One hour before serving, place small serving bowl in freezer. To serve, scrape frozen mixture with fork to create ice crystals. Stir in pepper. Transfer to chilled serving bowl; serve or cover and freeze until ready to use.
How to Shuck Raw Oysters
With an oyster knife, a dish towel, and some practice, you’ll be able to shuck safely and confidently.
1. Fold dish towel several times into thin, tight roll. Grip towel in fist of hand that will be holding oyster, wrapping 1 end over your thumb and tucking it between your thumb and forefinger.
2. Using your towel-protected thumb, hold oyster in place with hinge facing away from thumb. Insert tip of oyster knife into hinge of oyster.
3. Work tip of knife into hinge using twisting motion. When shells begin to separate, twist knife to pop hinge.
4. Run knife along top shell, scraping abductor muscle from shell to release oyster. Slide knife under oyster to scrape abductor muscle from bottom shell.
Want to learn even more about oysters? The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Raw Oysters at Home will teach you everything you need to know.