Oysters – nature’s party food
  |  First Published: December 2004

Oysters in the half shell with various toppings and sauces are a great party food idea. They come complete in their own personal ‘serving dish’ that you can throw away afterwards – no washing up! – but the best part of all is how great they taste.

Oysters are a delicious mixture of salty and creamy that can be tweaked a little by you to your taste. The following are more concepts than recipes, each of them requiring a minimum of preparation and ingredients and all of them being totally out of this world in flavour. Choose the freshest oysters and have your fishmonger (or yourself) remove the top shell, retaining as much juice as possible.

Oyster ideas

1. Try adding a splash of ice-cold vodka to the oyster, or go a step further and add a splash of a Bloody Mary to it. Take care to warn any designated drivers of the alcohol content in these oysters. If anyone gets pulled over after dinner, telling a police officer “I only had some oysters” won’t be accepted as an excuse!

2. Prepare a variety of crunchy toppings using roughly chopped breadcrumbs, a little melted butter and mild herbs such as parsley or chives. Use different textured breads such as sourdough, Turkish pide bread and good old white. Combine the bread, butter and finely chopped herbs with perhaps the tiniest scraping of garlic and heap on the top of the oysters in the half shell. A few moments under a hot grill and voila – a delicious golden topping covering your oyster.

3. Vary the topping on your oysters by adding some finely crushed pistachios or macadamias to some roughly chopped breadcrumbs, a little butter and the smallest amount of grated green chilli. The aim is to enhance the oysters’ flavour, not to overwhelm it. Pop under a hot grill for a few moments until golden.

4. Remove the oysters from the shells and place in a bowl until ready to use. Wilt some baby spinach (in the microwave is fine), drain and add a little wilted spinach to the half shells. Pop the oysters back on top of the spinach. In a small saucepan, simmer a half a cup of champagne or sparkling wine until it reduces by half. Add a teaspoonful of butter to the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a couple of tablespoons of cream. Season with some freshly ground pepper. Spoon a little of this sauce over each oyster and serve.

5. Last but not least, the ultimate topping: a small amount of crème fraiche and a generous dollop of caviar onto a fresh oyster in the half shell. Delicious!

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