We had a great studio visit with Greer Glassman from Island Creek Oysters in our showroom recently learning everything we could about oysters: where they come from, how to shuck them and most importantly, how to eat them! Read on to learn more. You'll be an expert in no time. Greer also has some sick skills on the wheel!
KK: How did you fall into the exotic world of oysters?
GG: I started shucking when I was 16, in Los Angeles at a restaurant called Son of a Gun. I’d hop on the bus after school and get to work on what was called “slosh station.” Oyster shucking isn’t the tidiest of tasks. I was somehow pretty good and pretty fast, so, I stayed on that station for far too long, ha! I continued working in the hospitality industry for many years, in a few different cities. Oysters were a unifying theme throughout almost every place I’d been. It’s come full circle, as I now work for Island Creek Oysters out of Duxbury, MA selling the dang things!
KK: Very important question. How do you like to eat your oysters?
GG: Naked, as mother nature intended! Sometimes I’ll add a little lemon juice to balance the salt with a bit of acid. That said, I do really enjoy oysters as part of a composed dish, be it grilled, smoked or with thoughtful accoutrements too. There’s no wrong way to eat an oyster, but... there is a right way, and that is primarily, without any fuss - at least for the first one on your plate, so that you can taste the essence of it.
KK: Okay but what about the rest of us? Any favorite mignonette sauce recommendations?
GG: You can’t go wrong with a little champagne vinegar. Sounds fancy, but it’s a classic. Add a little finely diced shallot - keep it simple, bright and light. Freshly grated horseradish is also a classic. Oh, and caviar. Put caviar on your oysters, that’s a real pro tip.
KK: What’s an oyster eating no-no?
GG: No forks! Make sure you’re sipping that liquor! This is the juice inside the shell. Like wine, the flavor of oysters is a unique reflection of the environment in which they’re grown, also known as merroir. The oyster liquor is the best way to experience that natural development. Also, you definitely want to chew them at least twice to fully get into that flavor profile. Bite the belly!
KK: Can you walk us through oyster shucking 101?
GG: Essentially, the goal is to gently pop the oyster shell open and cleanly sever the muscle on both sides of the animal.
- Step 1: Place the oyster cupside-down, either in your hand or countertop. If you don’t have a glove, fold the oyster into a towel.
- Step 2: Find the narrow end of the oyster, this is where the hinge is, and put the tip of knife inside, wiggling it gently until you feel a release. It’s more about leverage than strength. The movement is akin to turning a key inside a lock. Remove the knife and clean any grit from the blade.
- Step 3: Go back to that crevice you’ve just created, and slide the knife up against the flat half of the shell to sever the top from the meat, careful not to mangle the body.
- Step 4: Now that the top shell is removed, go back again and put the knife against the other half of the shell (the cup) to sever the muscle from the bottom. You are looking for an opaque little circle, this is the adductor muscle. You want to make sure you slice it cleanly away from shell, as it is part of the flavor of the oyster, and in my opinion, the most delicious! Pop, wiggle, slide. Easy peezy. Now you’re ready to slurp it back and enjoy.
KK: Where can you go wrong with shucking?
GG: Avoid breaking the belly, you want to maintain the structure of the meat as best you can. If you do this correctly, there is no need to flip the oyster, its shape is already designed to slip right into your mouth without turning it over.
KK: What happens if you get shell in there?
GG: It’s not the end of the world. Just use your finger to feel around and clean it out. Gently wiggle the meat around for the best presentation.
KK: Now that we’re all pros, tell us the weirdest/coolest thing you’ve learned about oysters?
GG: Hmmm. Well, it takes about 1.5 to 3 years to grow from the size of a grain of sand to a market-sized oyster - what you get on your plate. All that time growing, and just seconds to enjoy. They also can change sex multiple times in their lives!
We sell about 11 million oysters a year that we grow and harvest in our own bay in Duxbury, MA. Each oyster is handled several times throughout its life to manage consistency and quality. We actually breed them, like you would horses or dogs. We have our broodstock in petri dishes, honing in on the best attributes in our kings and queens, then taking the sperm and eggs to make oyster babies!
KK: What’s your dream oyster eating scenario?
GG: I’m very lucky, I get to basically live out the dream and literally eat oysters right out of the bay, on the farm in which they’re grown. It doesn’t get any fresher or better than that, unless Aquaman shucked it himself and brought it to my lips. Very dreamy. Is, “dream boat” taking the pun too far?
KK: Favorite oyster knife?
GG: You can’t go wrong with an Island Creek Oyster shucking knife. I’m using the recycled ocean plastic knife right now. It is a shorter and slightly sharper blade for precision.
KK: Wanna come back and host an oyster party with us?
GG: Oh, HELL yes! Let’s eat oysters out of our raw bar boat in your studio! I’ll bring the bivalves and the boat, you pour the bubbly.
KK: Thank you Greer. Can’t wait!
Photos by Alison Narro