Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wanna Shuck?

It’s finally that time of year again. The weather starts changing, cloths start covering less skin, and young women (and men) start jogging around town to get those bodies back in bathing suit shape. It is a welcome sight after a long winter of brown roadside snow, unflattering winter clothes and nights out scrapped due to miserable weather. (What was up with that DC snow? I don’t think I went out during the month of February.) But that’s all behind us now, spring is finally here to free us from winter’s cold death grip and awaken the libidos of all species as we partake in what biologists refer to as the mating season. 

I have the perfect warm weather appetizer to capitalize on the natural momentum provided by the changing of the season. This appetizer will make you the coolest guy on your date or at that gathering of friends. It will lay the foundations both chemically and mentally to exploit the hormonal shifts produced by the warm weather. I’m talking of course about oysters on the half shell, nature’s aphrodisiac.

For centuries oysters have been said to possess aphrodisiac qualities. Aside from the oyster’s resemblance to a certain female organ, there is some scientific evidence to support this claim. Researchers have demonstrated that oysters are rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Oysters have high levels of zinc, which helps control progesterone levels. Progesterone is a hormone involved in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. For men, zinc deficiency has been linked to impotence, so guys stay fertile and eat some oysters. Also, the act of swallowing a whole live oyster is pretty sexually suggestive and provides ample opportunity for innuendo.

As the warm weather arrives there are two situations in which shucking oysters is a good move:
1. As an appetizer before a late dinner reservation. Show off your manliness to your date and rile her animal instincts by killing a living organism for her.
2. As an awesome alternative party contribution at the next bbq. Make an impression by forgoing the usual boring party items like beer or chips and bring a couple dozen oysters. It will surely make you the center of attention for at least a couple of minutes.

 What you will need from the store:
1. A couple of lemons
2. Oysters – This time of year you can find oysters in most quality super markets. A word of warning, That’s What She Fed recently bought a dozen oysters from the supermarket, Harris Teeter, and 4 of them contained a small, dime sized, ‘oyster’ or ‘pea’ crab (Pinnotheres ostreum, pictured below). These harmless translucent, creepy looking crabs live inside the oysters and eat the oysters food. These crabs are actually considered delicacy, but they can quickly kill an appetite if you don’t know what they are beforehand. That’s What She Fed recommends people in the DC area to go to the fish market on the wharf. The oysters there were bigger, juicier, and fresher. Plus there is nothing like buying seafood from a real fishmonger (the market will be featured in a later post).

 Best not let your date see this creepy little guy

What you will need from the kitchen:
1. An oyster knife – absolutely necessary, you will break any knives in your kitchen trying to do this. They’re about $8 and usually sold where you get your oysters, at kitchen stores or online.
1. A hand towel
3. A scrubbing brush (or one of those sponges with a rough side)

Some easy topping options:

1.Cocktail sauce and lemon – Control the spice and make your own. Very simple just 2 parts ketchup one part horseradish (adjust to taste), That’s What She Fed’s favorite oyster topper.

2.Hot sauce and lemon – recommend Tabasco sauce

3.Mignonette Sauce – If you really want to impress your date use this simple recipe
1/2 cup white wine (split the rest of the bottle with your date playa)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (if you don’t have this laying around don’t sweat it, I don’t think she’ll notice)
1 shallot, finely chopped (remember the shallot?)
Salt and Pepper to taste (remember that oysters are naturally salty)

Place wine and vinegar in saucepan and reduce to half
Remove from heat
Stir in the shallot, salt, and pepper
Try and collect some juices from shucking and add it to the sauce

Let’s shuck already

Shucking an oyster is a lot easier than you think, after doing two or three you’ll be shucking like a professional.

**Note about the photos, my left thumb got caught between two helmets during football practice in high school. Ever since, a straight dark line has grown in my nail. Still haven’t gotten a good answer from any doctors as to why.

1. Make sure the oysters are alive. A living oyster will have a tightly closed shell. Any open oysters should be tapped with the knife, a live oyster will quickly close up. Discard any oysters that do not shut.

2. Scrub the oysters under cold water with a brush. The oysters will have sea remnants on them, don’t want your girl getting a mouthful of sand with her oyster.
3. Place the oyster on a table wrapped in towel with the hinge of the oyster exposed.
4. Insert the knife into the oyster between the shells at the hinge

5. Twist the knife to detach the muscles
6. Work the knife around the perimeter of the oyster to fully separate the two shells

7. Scrape the meat from the top shell into the bottom shell

8. Scrape the meat from the bottom shell so that it is completely separated
9. Add your topping
10. Throw it back like a shot, don’t chew
11. Make a joke about swallowing.

Oysters are the perfect warm weather appetizer they offer the shucker an air of manliness and sophistication while capitalizing on the oysters aphrodisiac qualities and the hormonal shifts of spring to give you a leg up during the season of love.

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