Think about the bounty of the greenmarket in fall: bushels of apples, plums, squash, pumpkins — a veritable harvest festival of orange and red. But look beyond the fields and orchards, and you’ll see that the season has clicked in at sea as well as on land.
“I love it right now, when it starts to get a little colder,” says Stephanie Villani of Blue Moon Fish. “That’s when the oysters start to get really good.” She opens up an ice-packed cooler to reveal a rubbly pile of shells.
“They might be a little bigger, or smaller, or a different color — see, this one is red — depending on where they’re from,” Villani explains. “These are from Long Island Sound. We prefer to bring in the wild oysters, not farmed ones. We call these Robin’s Island Oysters, that’s the local name, but they’re similar to Blue Points.”
She shucks one (“Shucking! That’s the only downside”), revealing the quivering pearlescent flesh. It tastes briny and sweet, delicate and mild.
“We fish oysters with tongs. You go out in little boats and scrape and flick them up from the bottom. Clammers and oyster guys are big, strong guys. It’s a lot of work. My husband’s been out on the boat with his tongs. Let me tell you, he gets these muscles…”
Such beautiful oysters are best eaten fresh and ice-cold, maybe with a light spritz of lemon, or mignonette sauce (combine 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and one tablespoon of finely chopped shallots and let sit an hour or so to pickle the shallot).
“I love them plain and fresh,” says Villani. “Just perfect.”