Here’s everything you need to know to throw a perfect oyster party: quantities and varieties of oysters to serve, side dishes to plan and more!
Some people like their oyster parties more fancy, with bubbles and formal wear, others prefer them more informal gathered in the kitchen with friends.
But no matter how you like your oyster parties, here’s everything you need to know to make yours a success.
The first thing to determine is the budget and the ambiance you want for your oyster party.
And good news, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a really nice oyster party, not to mention the fact that you don’t have to spend all day cooking.
- How to select your oysters
- What questions should you ask your fishmonger before buying oysters ?
- How many oysters per person?
- How many varieties of oysters should you have and in what order should you eat them?
- How to keep oysters
- How do you know if an oyster is no longer fresh?
- How to open an oyster
- What to serve at an oyster party?
How to select your oysters
What questions should you ask your fishmonger before buying oysters ?
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 more salty taste, etc.
It is also important to specify your budget and the type of party you have in mind when talking to your fishmonger.
- Which 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
Oysters are now easily found from all over the world: British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the Magdalen Islands, Maine, etc.
And did you know that the taste and texture of oysters vary depending on their origin?
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 per person?
If only oysters are served, 18 to 24 oysters per person are required.
It may therefore be more economical to buy oysters by the case or to combine the purchase of a case and a few dozen by the unit.
How many varieties of oysters should you have and in what order should you eat them?
Plan on 2 to 3 different varieties, of various sizes and origins.
They can be tasted from the least salty to the most salty.
Here is an example of oyster varieties that could be chosen, to be tasted in this order:
- Valentine or Kusshi from British Columbia.
- Cascumpec from Prince Edward Island
- Trésor du large from Magdalen Islands, for a saltier finale.
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.
- Ideally, oysters are placed flat side up in the bottom of the fridge. You can also cover them with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.
- The enemies of oysters: heat, freezing and being soaked in water.
How do you know if an oyster is no longer fresh?
When purchased, oysters can be knocked slightly.
A hollow, higher-pitched sound means that there is less liquid inside and therefore it is less fresh.
On the other hand, a heavy sound is a good sign of freshness.
When opened, an oyster with a foul odour should not be eaten.
A fresh oyster should be firm and plump, bathed in liquid.
How to open an oyster
Some basic rules are necessary to open an oyster without ending up with a knife in your hand.
- Place a cloth over the oyster to provide protection for the palm of your hand.
- Open the oyster by rotating your wrist, much like turning a handle. Never point the knife at your hand when opening the oyster.
- 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, maximum 30 minutes before and always keep cool once opened.
- If you open the oysters before the guests arrive, place them on a large tray in the refrigerator, without detaching the oyster and replace the shell on top. When you are ready to serve them, just cut the bottom nerve.
- 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!
Pro tip: When opening oysters, always have a glass or bowl of water near you. If you come across a bad and smelly oyster, just place it in this bowl. This way, the smell won’t waft through the room all evening.
What to serve at an oyster party?
You can decide to opt for a 100% oyster formula, where only raw or cooked oysters are served.
You may also decide to offer other dishes for a little variety.
Oysters: Ideally, oysters should be served 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 nice effect in your plate.
What to serve with oysters ?
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;
- trout or murol caviar to serve with oysters;
- balsamic or apple vinegar;
- an apple or champagne granita to put on the oysters.
Cooking 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 cheese and small cubes of pancetta.
Other dish suggestions
If you don’t want to serve only oysters, there are some dishes that are a good complement to an oyster party:
- salmon, smoked or in tartar ;
- a clam chowder ;
- a green salad or a seaweed salad;
- a platter of cooked shrimp or seafood;
- you can also add clams or raw sea urchins to the oysters plate.
Now all you have to do is plan your next oyster party! Enjoy your meal!