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  • Kathryn Brown

Valentine's Day or Date Night: Raw Oysters on a Budget

Updated: Feb 7

If you can eat raw oysters, you can serve everything in the photo below- including the sparkling wine, for around $12. You can have a full dozen with a simple bottle of sparkling wine from Aldi for around $15.

raw oysters on a budget
Half dozen oysters with glasses of champagne

Is there anything more romantic than oysters on the half-shell and a glass of champagne? If money is tight this Valentine's Day, you can still treat your Valentine if you shop carefully. While enjoying a romantic evening, you are also part of a system cleaning the world's oceans.

Eating Farmed Oysters helps save our oceans - a single oyster can filter up to 150 liters (about 50 gallons) of water daily.

Oysters are Saving the Oceans

Most people are surprised to learn that oysters are more than simply sustainable. Farmed oysters clean the oceans around them very efficiently. During the pandemic, the Nature Conservancy bought 3 million unsold oysters and released them into the wild to clean the oceans. Every time you buy a farm-raised oyster, you support a small business and clean the oceans simultaneously. Look at you, eco-warrior/home cook extraordinaire!

The Disclaimer

Eating raw oysters is not for everyone. Farmed oysters are safe, but not for everyone. Talk to your doctor if you have questions. The author of this post does not eat wild or warm-water oysters, but I can enjoy farmed oysters safely. If in doubt, always listen to your physician.

raw oysters on a budget
Oysters with Mignonette Sauce

The Oysters

I have found two excellent sources for whole live oysters--Whole Foods and Sprouts. Sprouts in Florida sells Atlantic cool water oysters for $0.79 per oyster daily. I have had good luck with these oysters. Whole Foods is in a class by itself in terms of oysters--they sell a variety of farmed oysters that are of better quality than anything I have had in a restaurant, even in Florida. But here's the catch: these oysters are $2 per oyster daily, except for Friday when Amazon Prime members can get them for $1 per oyster. These oysters are fresh, buttery, salty, briny, and wonderful. If you love oysters, it might be worth it to get Prime. If not, there is always Sprouts. Be careful; do not buy oysters from any outlet you do not trust. Shop around, as many producers have exceptional deals.

The last Friday before Valentine's Day 2024 is February 9. Don't forget to get out and get some oysters before your big date night.

When you get your oysters home, put them in the sink. Ensure the sink and area are free of other stuff to prevent cross-contamination. Turn the water on cold and put your oysters in a colander. Scrub your oysters - I use a dedicated vegetable brush. Put a wet towel on a tray or cookie sheet, place the oysters on that, and cover them with a wet towel. I keep some ice on the tray to keep the oysters cold. Your oysters will keep several days to a week on this tray.

Your oysters cannot feel pain, but they can drown. Don't submerge them in fresh water- it will kill them. Be careful when keeping them on ice because they can become submerged and die as it melts. Your oyster should be alive until a few minutes before you eat it.

To shuck, I recommend that you view the following video from America's Test Kitchen:

Buy an oyster knife- mine was under $10 at Walmart. Amazon has some good options as well. Please be careful--take the safety steps like wrapping the towel around your thumb seriously. Remember that one trip to the ER can completely wreck the romantic vibe of date night.

Prepare a tray, fill it with ice, shuck your oysters, and place them on the ice. Avoid spilling oyster liquor. Place a bowl of mignonette sauce and lemon wedges on the tray.

raw oysters on a budget
Raw Oyster on ice with Mignonette and Lemons

The Sparkling Wine (Champagne)

I bought the Burlewood Brut Champagne at Aldi for $4.99/bottle. Trader Joe's also has inexpensive champagne or sparkling wine. You can find many options under $10 and a few good options under $5.

The Mignonette

Oysters are traditionally served with mignonette sauce, which is wine vinegar, finely chopped shallots, and cracked pepper with just a pinch of salt. The wine vinegar can be white or red or a mix. Avoid heavy or sweet kinds of vinegar like sherry or balsamic. Choose light vinegar, including all sorts of white or red wine or rice vinegar. Serve the mignonette with lemon wedges.

How to Eat Oysters

Squeeze a little lemon, put a bit of mignonette sauce on your oyster, raise it to your mouth, drink the liquor, and then pour that wonderful oyster into your mouth. If you love a little spice, add hot sauce to each oyster.

Raw Oysters with Mignonette

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