The late John Bil was Canada’s oyster shucking champion in 2006 and one of the most knowledgeable (and modest) seafood experts we’ve seen. “The first 20,000 are the hardest.” he quipped. But Bil is also very serious. “Oysters are the essence of the ocean…and they are environmentally very sensitive. So if there are any chemicals around, they die.” He shucked Malepeque, the branded oyster of Prince Edward Island which he called “free range”. They are the Eastern oyster which actually flourishes from the Gulf of Mexico northward. But in the cold waters off P.E.I., they simply don’t taste the same and that is the key to the Malpeque’s success. These fabulous bivalves are firmer and saltier than their southern cousins, particularly in the summer after they spawn. By winter, as they fatten with glycogen, they are at their New Years Eve best.
After opening countless seafood restaurants, including his own, Honest Weight, John Bil knew how to serve forth oysters. Here is his simple recipe.
- ½ cup (125 mL) red wine
- ½ cup (125 mL) apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsps (30 mL) minced shallots
- 1 tsp (5 mL) cracked black pepper
Combine red wine, cider vinegar, shallots and cracked black pepper. Let stand at room temperature for one hour to allow the shallots to marinate. Use a small spoon to serve on top of fresh oysters. Refrigerate leftover sauce for up to one week.
Makes 1 cup (250 mL) or enough for about 2 dozen oysters.
From Anita Stewart’s CANADA: The Food, The Recipes, The Stories (Harper Collins Canada 2008/2014)