Oysters

You know how wine lovers frequently talk about the terroir of a wine region? Well, oyster fanatics have their own term: It's called "merroir," or marine terroir, and it represents the different flavor characteristics that various oyster-growing regions impart. Lisa Giffen, head chef at Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere, explains: “Oysters from cold, icy waters in places like New England are sweet and snappy. But warmer bodies of water, like the Chesapeake Bay, produce bigger oysters with mineral flavors.” You'll often be able to taste these subtle flavors of the sea when you eat oysters on the half shell. F&W's guide provides great recipes, but it also explores America's best oyster bars, amazing wine and beer pairings and the best techniques for shucking an oyster.

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Taiwanese Oyster Omelet

I didn’t taste my first Taiwanese oyster omelet—a Taiwanese street food classic—in Taipei. Sadly, I’ve never been there. My first encounter with this extraordinary dish occurred in a frantic underground corridor in the New York subway system. Passing a small stall, I watched a chef toss oysters with eggs, add a sweet ketchup sauce, and flip it onto a paper plate. It seemed so incongruous in that setting that I simply had to try it. It was love at first bite. I was enchanted by the way the softness of the eggs danced up against the deliciously briny slipperiness of oysters. But what made the oyster omelet so special was the way the oysters and eggs were swept away by a mysterious and deliciously sticky substance. It was like a musical composition—each note different—and I found myself taking one bite and then another as I tried to tease out the flavors. I couldn’t stop thinking about that dish, and I found myself dredging up excuses to use that particular subway. But one day, as I sat in that frenzied airless space with busy commuters hurtling past me, it hit me that I’d much prefer eating in the quiet of my own kitchen. But what was the mystery substance? It turns out that the secret ingredient is sweet potato starch, one of the staples of the Taiwanese kitchen. It adds a wonderful textural note to the omelet, and I’ve loved playing around with it in this recipe. I also discovered that this wonderful combination of flavors tastes even better made with small, freshly shucked oysters. If you want to save a little time, instead of making your own, you can pick up some sweet chili sauce from your local Asian market; there are dozens of brands. My recipe is really easy and makes more than you need, but it keeps forever in the refrigerator.
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Iced Oysters with Bitter Lemon Vinaigrette


Spike Gjerde, the James Beard Award–winning chef at restaurants like A Rake’s Progress in Washington, D.C., and Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, approaches local sourcing with religious fervor. He forgoes olive oil and lemons, using locally grown and pressed oils and vinegars in their place. His team dries mint, lavender, peaches, and cherries—and even makes garlic powder. He refuses to buy from distributors, even when they buy from local growers, because he wants every penny to go the farm. “A lot of people say, ‘Wow, this is harder than I thought.’ Then they just call [giant distributor] Sysco. But it’s why we’re doing it,” Gjerde says. “Our job is to get more value back to growers.” Keepwell Vinegar, one of Gjerde’s favorite makers, makes a bitter lemon vinegar, which he uses in a vinaigrette served as a clean accompaniment to fresh oysters. Spicebush berries, sometimes called Appalachian allspice, have a lemony, piney flavor. Order them from integrationacres.com, and use the extra to muddle in the bottom of a gin and tonic in place of lime.
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Smoked Oyster Empanadas

Smoky, briny and buttery, these Smoked Oyster Empanadas from Food & Wine’s Justin Chapple will make you a canned seafood convert. They’re delicious on their own but we love them with a dash of hot sauce and a flute of champagne. Slideshow: More Empanada Recipes
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Grilled Oysters with Bacon Vinaigrette


If you already have your grill on for your main course, these oysters are an impressive and supersimple starter. Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson cooks the oysters ever so slightly on the grill for a kiss of smoke. “It firms up the flesh just enough so it feels like you’re eating shellfish,” she says. Slideshow: More Oyster Recipes
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More Oysters

Poached Oysters with Pickled Cucumber and Caviar

At The Sportsman in England, chef Stephen Harris celebrates the restaurant’s close proximity to the beach and some of the best oyster beds in the country. Here he poaches the oysters in their own liquor before putting them back in the shells and topping with creamy beurre blanc, tangy pickled cucumber and briny caviar. Slideshow: More Oyster Recipes
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Lettuce Wraps with Dried Oysters

"The Chinese love to play on the sound of the words, and the sound of the word 'oyster' is similar to the term 'good business,'” says cookbook author Kei Lum Chan. "So an oyster dish is popular to start Chinese New Year with." This recipe originally appeared in CHINA: THE COOKBOOK by Kei Lum and Diora Fong Chan. Slideshow: More Lettuce Wrap Recipes
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From Raw to Rockefeller: 9 Essential Oyster Preparations

Oysters are much more versatile than you think. While the plump, briny bivalves are, of course, spectacular served raw with a squeeze of lemon, they are also great for pickling, grilling, frying, stirring into creamy chowder—you get the picture.