Oysters on the Half-Shell with Sheep Sorrel Mignonette

You know you are reading a high-quality food blog when, instead of boring food magazine clichés like well-lit images of a beautiful invertebrate scantily clad in a swirl of condiment, or action shots of the author’s oystering companion gracefully bashing at shells with the fog playing tag with the fjord in the bokeh… instead of any of that crap you get an out-of-focus picture of the bottom of a jar. These are the sacrifices I make for you, my readers.

Anyway. I woke up at 5am this morning for the last reasonably timed spring tide of the season. “Reasonably”. It wasn’t the civilized afternoon tides of spring but at least we weren’t wearing headlamps in the winter rain at midnight. We got to the beach just as the tide was turning back in, so I raked up a quick limit of clams (if you are willing to eat purple varnish clams this goes VERY quick) before settling onto the oyster beds.

The State of Washington requires you to shuck all oysters on the beach and toss the shells back where you found them; this preserves habitat for baby oysters, which like to grow on old shells, and prevents the spread of invasive oyster drills. So if you want to eat your oysters raw on the half-shell, that means you have to eat your breakfast on the beach.

Sometimes life in temperate paradise can be very difficult indeed.

I brought three kinds of mignonette to eat with the oysters: A classic recipe with champagne vinegar and shallots; cucumber-borage; and sheep sorrel. They were all good but the sheep sorrel was the clear winner! I’d planned to get all the acidity from the oxalic acid in the leaves, but it didn’t quite work and I had to add some vinegar. Procedure is as follows:

  • ~2 cups mixed oxalic greens – in my case this was a lot of sheep sorrel (Rumex acetostella) and a little Oxalis whateveritis.
  • ~half a shallot
  • pinch of salt
  • a few turns of the pepper grinder
  • buzz in food processor and add enough water to make it the right consistency
  • also add a few drizzles of rosé vinegar when the water doesn’t taste acidic enough

Makes way more than you need for 3 dozen oysters. What should I do with all my leftover mignonette? Bonus if the answer also involves some of this ridiculous haul of lobster mushrooms I picked up on the way out of the park (while spitefully ignoring an almost equally generous bloom of Suillus lakei. Sorry, consolation prize mushrooms, but state parks have a 2 gallon mushroom limit and you don’t make the cut! Suckers!).

Oh, one more lesson: All seaweeds around here are edible enough to nibble on, but not all of them are tasty, and not all of the ones that seem tasty are actually good for food. I brought back a clump of ok-tasting mystery seaweed intending to dry it and use it as furikake or something, but then when I identified it… sulfuric acid, really? Harrumph.


  1. erica wrote:

    Man, I have ALWAYS wanted to bring Worcestershire sauce out to the clam beds to eat them swimming-fresh in the bay. And the mystery seaweed? So cool. I liked: “a beautiful invertebrate scantily clad in a swirl of condiment.” The only thing I really can’t deal with in this entry is you calling my friends Suillus “suckers.” You’ll rue the day you passed those up, I swear.

  2. Maria wrote:

    Sorry, I can’t hear your Suillus apologetics over the noise of how delicious my lobster mushrooms are.

  3. erica wrote:

    Tee hee. I’ve been curious about lobster mushrooms forever, cool that you found so many. I’ve never found one.

  4. Maria wrote:

    Last weekend was actually the first time I’ve found them – and the hill was COVERED.

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