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Hosting a successful oyster party: tips, accompaniments, and dishes to serve

There’s always a good reason to throw an oyster party!

Whether you’re planning a chic evening with sparkling wine or an informal get-together with friends, here’s everything you need to know to ensure the success of your oyster party.

Oysters plate
Photo: Unsplash

Determine the type of event and the budget for it

The format and the budget you decide on greatly influence the setting of your party, the selection of oysters and the dishes you will serve.

For example, it’s essential to decide whether you plan to serve oysters only as an appetizer before moving on to other dishes, or whether they will be the centerpiece of the evening from start to finish.

How to select your oysters

How to open oysters
Photo: Unsplash

When buying oysters, don’t hesitate to talk to your fishmonger to learn more about the different varieties available, where they come from and what makes them different.

Some oysters may be more meaty, others with a saltier taste, etc.

It is also important to specify your budget and the type of party you have in mind when talking to your fishmonger.

  • What type of oyster do you usually like?
  • Will there be oysters only as a starter or also as a main course?
  • Will they be served hot or raw?
  • What are the latest arrivals at the fish market?

The origin of oysters and how it affects their flavor

Another aspect to consider when buying oysters is their origin, which can influence their taste.

Choosing the right provenance means you can offer your guests a richer, more diversified taste experience.

For example, some oysters from British Columbia will have more vegetal flavors, with notes of cucumber and lettuce, while the Cascumpec, from Prince Edward Island, will be more meaty and a bit salty.

How many oysters should you plan per person?

Raw oysters on their half shell
Photo: Unsplash

The number of oysters to be served per person depends on the rest of the menu:

  • For starters: if you’re serving oysters as a starter, you can plan on 6 to 9 oysters per person. For hot oysters or oysters garnished with vegetable brunoise, for example, you can plan on 4 to 6 oysters per person.
  • Main course: if you’re only serving oysters for the evening, you’ll need between 18 and 24 oysters per person.
  • If oysters are served alongside other dishes, this number can be reduced to around 12 oysters per person.
  • Served as a main course, buying a case of oysters is likely to be more cost-effective.

How many varieties of oysters should you have and in what order should you eat them?

In addition to the quantity, you must also choose the number of oyster varieties to be served. Plan on 2 to 3 different varieties, of various sizes and origins.

Oysters are served from the least to the most salty.

Here is an example of oyster varieties that could be chosen, to be tasted in this order:

  1. The Valentine or the Kusshi from British Columbia
  2. The Cascumpec from Prince-Edward-Island
  3. La Trésor du large from the Magdalen Islands for a saltier finish.
Provide different varieties of oysters for a successful party
Provide 2 to 3 varieties of oysters, playing with size, origin and flavors.

How to keep oysters

Oysters can be kept for a long time in the refrigerator, up to 6 weeks after harvesting, a date that is always indicated on the boxes.

Here’s how to store them:

  • Do not store oysters in a plastic bag or airtight container as they need air. If left in a plastic bag, the bag should always be opened.
  • Place oysters flat side up, in the bottom of the fridge. You can also cover them with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.
  • Be sure not to freeze them or let them soak in water.

How do you know if an oyster is fresh?

When buying oysters, tap them lightly.

A hollow, acute sound indicates that there is less liquid inside and, therefore, that the oysters are less fresh.

On the other hand, a heavy sound is a good sign of freshness.

When you open an oyster, if it gives off a foul odor, don’t eat it.

A fresh oyster should be firm and plump, bathed in liquid.

How to open an oyster

Opening an oyster requires a few precautions to avoid injury:

  • Place a cloth over the oyster to protect your hand.
  • Open the oyster by rotating your wrist, without pointing the knife towards your hand.
  • Use a knife with a guard to stop it if the blade goes too far into the oyster.

Oysters should not be opened more than fifteen minutes before consumption, and should always be kept cool once opened.

Pro tips :

  • If you open the oysters before the guests arrive, place them on a large tray in the fridge, without removing the oyster, and replace the shell on top. When you’re ready to serve them, just cut the bottom nerve.
  • When opening oysters, always keep a glass or bowl of water close by. You can dispose of stinky oysters if you have any.
  • Don’t want to spend the evening opening oysters? You could hold a little raffle where the winner… opens the next dozen oysters. A great way to get everyone involved!

Dishes and side dishes to serve with oysters

Oysters on a plate
Photo: Unsplash

Recipes with oysters

Serve fresh oysters on a large platter, set on a bed of crushed ice, snow or salt. You can also buy seaweed at your fishmonger’s for a beautiful effect on the plate.

In addition to the classic lemon wedge or a dash of Tabasco you can serve :

  • horseradish (fresh or pickled);
  • a classic mignonette with red wine vinegar and shallots;
  • a lime and ginger mignonette;
  • cocktail sauces in more or less spicy versions;
  • vinegar beads for a fancy touch;
  • caviar to serve with oysters ;
  • balsamic or apple vinegar;
  • an apple or champagne granita to put on the oysters.

Side dishes for oysters

If you decide to serve only oysters for the evening, here are a few ideas of side dishes that go very well with this mollusc:

  • A seaweed salad;
  • A green salad;
  • A charcuterie or cheese platter;
  • Various breads (wine, walnut, olive) ;
  • A seafood platter (shrimp, clams, sea urchin, etc.);
  • A platter of smoked salmon with capers and lemon.

Recipes to cook oysters

Oysters au gratin with spinach
Oysters au gratin with spinach

A popular option at oyster parties is to serve raw oysters first, before moving on to hot dishes with oysters.

If you decide to serve cooked oysters, here are some recipe suggestions:

  • oyster soup;
  • oysters au gratin or Rockefeller style. For this recipe, you could also replace the spinach with seaweed;
  • BBQ oysters with tomato sauce, parmesan and small cubes of pancetta;
  • breaded oysters.

What dishes should be served after oysters?

If you don’t want to serve exclusively oysters, here are a few suggestions of dishes you could serve afterwards:

  • salmon tartare with fries or crostini;
  • clam chowder ;
  • shrimps a la plancha;
  • seafood paella;
  • shrimp or seafood risotto;
  • grilled seafood.

This way, you can extend the culinary experience beyond oysters, offering a variety of dishes that complement the flavors of the sea.

Now all you have to do is plan your next oyster party! Enjoy your meal!

Thanks to Poissonnerie La Mer for the availability and the informations.

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