Recession Special: Eat More Oysters


Ugly plate, pretty oysters

Just to get you in the mood, here’s Paul O’Neil, the former secretary of the treasury, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

If the United States doesn’t get its finances in order, the coming
years will make the current recession “look like a child’s birthday

Ahahaha. Does that sort of thing make you want to run screaming down the street? I suggest burying your head in oysters and Champagne (well, sparking wine) instead. Yes, you can. Here’s how:

I learned how to shuck oysters in cooking school years ago, and have literally not done it since. Last night I was craving oysters and feeling sorry for myself because I can’t afford them. Then it occurred to me that my local fish store sells oysters for $11 a dozen. I could get off my lazy ass and shuck them myself. 

Plus, if you go reference ultra-cheap sparkling wine taste-test, you’ll see that you can get a really good Cava for $7. So for $18, you can have a dozen oysters and an entire bottle of wine. And everything will look rosy, at least until tomorrow.

Directions for how to shuck oysters at home, after the jump.

Oyster, and the knife that will be its undoing

The only equipment you need is an oyster knife, shown above (about $6 at any kitchen store). Plus, a dishtowel and a stable surface. Oyster shucking is easy, but I’ve heard horror stories about knives run through hands, so please be very careful.


First, find the hinge in your oyster. That’s in the back, not the front. When you steam oysters (or clams or mussels), when they pop open, they hold together at the hinge in the back. In this case, the hinge is where you’re going to pop the oyster open. Usually you can see a small gap around the hinge, and that’s where you’re going to slip the knife in.

About to shuck

Now position your oyster as shown above. Put the more bulbous, bowl-like side of the shell down, so that it will hold the oyster’s liquor. The dishtowel is to protect your hand and also to make it easier to steady the oyster. Be very careful that when you are applying force to the knife, that you are totally in control and you are angling down and away from your hand.

Take the point of the knife and force it as far into the hinge as you can go (probably not very far). That’s the part where you want to be especially careful not to slip. Now that the knife is stuck into that little gap, twist the knife (by twisting your wrist) while bearing down toward the center of the oyster. It might take a few tries, but you’ll break the seal and feel the oyster pop open. Yay!

Now you can run your knife along the sides of the shell, twisting the knife to loosen the shell further. Being careful not to spill the liquor inside, run your knife along the top inside of the shell to release the connections there.

And now you are ready to slurp it down, or if you have more self control, to shuck the rest of the oysters and then slurp them down.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 13, 2009


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