You may have heard before that oysters are best enjoyed during months that end with “r.” Here’s why: When the days are long and the sun is strong, these little creatures are spawning, causing them to taste soft and watery. But when it gets colder, they have a firm texture and a bright, briny flavor, making this the best season to enjoy them.
Over at Little Creek Oyster Farm and Market in Greenport, owner Ian Wile told us about all the ways he serves his favorite North Fork oysters in the restaurant and at home.
GRILLED WITH COMPOUND BUTTER
“We love grilling oysters,” Wile said. “The possibilities are endless — from a simple cheat on having to shuck them (just throw them on a hot grill, wait for the pop and enjoy) to preparations ranging from compound butters to just about anything you can dream up.” His favorite compound butter combines spice and booze.
“We do ours with Ronnybrook Farms butter, Widow Jane Bourbon and tons of chipotles,” he said. “Topped with parmesan cheese — bubbly and spicy.”
IN A CREAMY SOUP
If you’re in the mood for a more wintery dish, something that will fill you up, order Maggie’s Butter Soup. Butter, shallots and oysters are sautéed in a pan until they puff up. Add heavy cream and Outerbridge Sherry Pepper Sauce until the alcohol cooks off. “It is so simple, fast and rich,” Wile said.
AS A SMOKED OYSTER SPREAD
Wile will also bake oysters into pot pies or smoke them over cherry or apple wood. “[Smoked oysters] can be left whole and tossed with some olive oil and packed with herbs for a snack over crackers,” he said. “Or whipped into a paté in the food processor for a great spread.”
But the best way to enjoy the oyster? Eat it exactly how nature intended. “Honestly, enjoy them however you want,” he said. “But we believe at every occasion [oysters] ought to be enjoyed straight. There is nothing like a plate of cold oysters on ice with just a hint of a mild mignonette.”
While West Coast oysters like Olympia and Hama Hama have a coppery taste and buttery, green flavors, oysters from the North Fork and the surrounding area are higher in salinity.
“Oyster tastes change by even micro-regions,” Wile said. “But it can be subtle. Oysters will change in taste throughout the seasons as well.” So while they taste especially delicious this time of year, enjoy them in any month — no “r” required.