The oyster connoisseur will claim that cooking the bivalve is blasphemy, preferring to eat them raw on the half-shell in their own liquor with nothing to overpower the delicate flavor. The staunchest defenders of raw oysters may even sneer at any accompaniment to these gems, but many enjoy them with a squeeze of fresh lemon, grated horseradish, mignonette sauce (a combination of pepper, vinegar, and a little shallot), and/or spicy cocktail sauce.
But there's an equally rich history of cooking oysters, from the famously opulent Oysters Rockefeller to the more humble oyster stews that fed New Yorkers for centuries before the New York bay was depleted. And on Thanksgiving, oyster stuffing is a classic accompaniment to roast turkey.
If you are cooking oysters, it's useful to know how the shellfish measure up to the needs of your recipes. Use the chart below to make sure you're using the proper amount.
Preparing Oysters for Cooking
If you have live oysters to be used in a cooked dish, rather than for eating raw, you can steam them (a few seconds will do it) or microwave (about 30 to 60 seconds on high depending on the oven wattage) just until the shells open. Then cut them from the shells and proceed. If you are a first-time shucker, you may find it easier if you toss them in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes first. This will relax the muscles that pull the shell tight.
Most importantly, cook oysters gently to avoid turning them into a rubbery, chewy waste of good shellfish. When the edges begin to curl, they've had enough heat.
• 6 large oysters = 1 serving raw
• 12 medium oysters = 1 serving raw
• 36 to 48 small Olympia oysters = 1 serving raw
• 1 quart shucked oysters = 6 servings
• 6 medium Eastern oysters = 20 Olympia oysters
• 300 to 500 shucked raw Olympia oysters = 1 quart
• 1 dozen shucked medium oysters = about 1 cup
• 1 quart medium shucked oysters = about 50 oysters
• 6 1/2 ounce can smoked oysters = about 24 oysters