Little oyster shacks dot Arcachon Bay, which is just under an hour’s drive west of Bordeaux. Along the coastal route are the so-called villages ostréicoles, which, in a nutshell, are like mini Disney Worlds for oyster lovers. One particularly picturesque example is that of the Village de l’Herbe, where rickety seafood shacks spill onto the beach and serve a dozen oysters with a glass of Tariquet for just a few euros.
Traditionally, oysters are simply shucked and served with a squeeze of lemon, but I’m combining them with another typical taste of the region: a hefty Bordeaux red from the nearby Médoc. A deep, rich bouillon is made using the red wine, which is then poured over the oysters to cook them quickly and give them a more meaty texture.
- Yield: 12 oysters
- Preparation Time: 15 Minutes
- Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 shallots, finely sliced
- ⅔ cup red Bordeaux wine (or another hearty red wine)
- 2 cups hot beef stock
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 12 oysters
- Coarse sea salt
- 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
- Melt the butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat and fry the shallots until golden and caramelized. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Add the beef stock and salt and boil vigorously for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Taste for seasoning.
- Meanwhile, open the oysters. Use a special oyster knife (shucker) that has a guard and a dull blade with a pointed tip. Don’t use an ordinary knife. First, wash and scrub the oysters under cold running water. Using a folded tea towel to protect your hand, place the oyster with its round bottom on a cutting board. Dig the tip of the shucker into the hinge (the pointy end of the oyster) and wiggle the blade along the hinge in order to loosen it. Twist the blade to open the shell a little. Keep the knife flush with the top shell and slide it along to separate the two shells and sever the muscle in the top half. Lift off the top shell and remove any broken pieces from the oyster flesh. If the oyster smells fishy or “off,” discard it. Freshly shucked oysters should smell of the sea in a clean and fresh way.
- Carefully detach the muscle from the bottom shell with the tip of the knife and drain away any remaining juices from the oyster. Rest the oysters on a bed of sea salt. Ladle the boiling bouillon over them, sprinkle with the chives, and serve immediately.