Oysters, a Thanksgiving Tradition Across the Miles

Thanksgiving is a time for family traditions, and essayist Bonny Wolf has a personal favorite: eating raw oysters. What makes that unusual, she says, is that she grew up "a thousand miles from the ocean, way back in the days before shipping fresh seafood cross country was routine."

Want to sample Wolf's tradition? Read on for tips on shucking oysters and a recipe for oyster stuffing:

Aw, Shucks: How to Open an Oyster

A couple of oyster tips:

1. Make sure oysters are alive before you open them. If their shells aren’t tightly closed, toss them.

2. Ice them down before starting. The colder they are, the easier they are to open.

There are two ways to open an oyster

1. Like a professional

2. Like someone who doesn’t want to play with knives

For both, begin by scrubbing oysters with a stiff brush under running water to get rid of grit and dirt. Rinse thoroughly. A nice, dry white wine goes well with this step.

Method I. Tools: Rubber gloves (or kitchen towel), oyster knife (screwdriver or beer can opener).

1. Put on rubber gloves or drape a towel over your open palm. Hold the shell with the curved, deeper part facing your hand.

2. Using a back-and-forth motion, slip the blade between the top and bottom shells at the hinge on the narrow end. Try not to stab yourself.

3. Twist the knife back and forth to separate the shells.

4. Cut the meat from the top part of the shell and discard top shell.

5. Run the knife under the body of the oyster.

Method II. Tools: Microwave-safe casserole (oven-proof tray), microwave(oven).

1. Place oysters in dish. Put in microwave on warm for 5 minutes.

2. Or sprinkle coarse salt on a tray, place the oysters on top and put in hot oven with grill on for 5 minutes.

3. The heat will part the shells and the oysters will be easy to pry open. They will remain uncooked.

There is, of course, one more method: Ask the fishmonger to open them for you. Keep them cold. Eat.

Oyster Stuffing

10 cups bread cubes or 1 pound toasted bread, cut into cubes

1 stick unsalted butter

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup parsley

1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon thyme

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1 pint raw oysters or 1 dozen freshly shucked oysters (save the juice)

Heat butter in large skillet and add onions and celery, cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add spices. Stir in bread crumbs. Add drained oysters and save the juices (the liquor) to moisten as needed. To use as stuffing, reheat before stuffing turkey, or for a side dish, bake in a large buttered baking dish at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

More from Bonny Wolf

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