Are oysters an aphrodisiac? Maybe—they contain a lot of zinc, which boosts levels of dopamine and testosterone. There’s no scientific proof but that’s OK, we love them anyway. If you do, too, consider preparing them at home as part of your Valentine’s Day dinner. We asked Ralph Bello, executive chef at Newburgh’s Primo Waterfront, for advice to up your shell game.
I recommend buying a mesh safety glove, so if you slip with the oyster knife, you don’t puncture your hand—trust me, it’s not a pretty injury. You could also use a thick kitchen towel folded over a few times. You need a special oyster knife; there are a few different types such as the Boston, which is long and narrow, or the New Haven, which is short and stout—it’s a matter of preference.
If you’re looking at the oyster as a teardrop, you want to place the knife at the tip. Rather than try to force the knife through, if you have the right angle and give it a slight turn, the shell should pop open easily. While you can hold the oyster in your hand when shucking it, beginners should place it on a table for stability and safety.
Here’s a little trick: Before you open the oyster, hold the shell up to your ear and give it a little shake. If it feels heavy and you can’t hear anything rattling around, that’s a good sign that the oyster is alive, plump, and full of juice. But if it rattles—like how a burnt-out lightbulb would—it might be dried out and almost dead. There’s always the smell test, too: When you shuck an oyster, if it has a strong, rotten odor, don’t eat it.
I like them prepared pretty classic—raw with some mignonette sauce, or a with a little bit of lemon juice and hot sauce. But if it’s cold out, I love roasting them in the broiler topped with a bit of butter; try using an apple- or garlic-flavored butter if you want to get fancy.