Oysters And Clams – Everything You Need To Know

Oysters And Clams – Everything You Need To Know


-[ Laughs ]
I’ve heard them all. Shucking hell. Take me home and shuck me. Shuck me, suck me, eat me raw. That was a T-shirt at one point.
That was a bad idea. Turns out “shucks” sounds
like another word that everyone really likes, and there’s a lot
of really funny people who put those
two things together. ♪♪ I’m Chris Sherman
from Island Creek Oysters. Today, we’re going to learn
how to shuck and eat oysters and clams. We’ll show you the tools
that you need, the methodology, how to pick out
the right shellfish, really all with the goal of
eating more shellfish at home. To shuck is simply to remove
the top shell of the oyster and separate the meat
from the bottom shell. The beautiful thing about
shellfish is they’re actually served
on their own little plate, their shell, so you want
to leave them in there when they’re going
in the raw bar. We’ll start with picking
the shellfish starting with the oysters. The things you want to look for
in an oyster are a nice deep cup. Another thing you can do
is bang them together. You want them to sound
like two rocks. You don’t want to have a hollow
kind of nutshell sound to it. Another thing you want
to look for is the shape. You want a nice, round shape or maybe a teardrop shape
if it’s growing in gear. You don’t want an oyster
that’s flat or bent or curved. Next, we’ll talk about
the tools of the trade. We use what we call
a shucking knife. It’s a semi-sharp knife
that you use to actually lever into the shell
and pop that shell open. What you want to look for
is a blade that’s big enough
for the task, right? If you have a really big oyster, you need to have a big,
strong blade. If you have a really small,
delicate oyster, you need to have a smaller,
delicate blade, and you can see these oysters
are pretty much medium size, medium-size knife. Another thing to look for
is it’s not a knife. You’re not really, like,
cutting anything. Really what you’re doing
is you’re getting in and you’re separating
the two shells, so you need it
to have some qualities that your regular knife doesn’t. It’s got to be able
to be torqued. It’s got to have a nice,
firm handle. If it’s wooden, you want to have
full tang which means the blade goes all the way
through the handle with some rivets in there
to hold it in place. Other things we’ve got on the
table here, we’ve got gloves. So this is something that it’s
like wearing a bike helmet. You should really do it. If you don’t, it’s not,
like, insane. You can definitely shuck
an oyster without gloves on, but certainly
if you’re a beginner, it’s great to have gloves. These gloves are actually
designed to prevent you from cutting yourself
on the shell of the oyster. You find the point where
the two shells connect, and for reference,
it’s generally the pointy end. You’re gonna take your knife, and I like to choke up
on the blade. So you want to go in
at an angle. You’re not going in flat
like so, and you’re not going in down
at the hinge like that. It’s really just about
a 45 degree angle, and the twist and wiggle
consists of finding the gap
between the two shells, and then you’re going to gently
twist the knife back and forth like this
and wiggle it. What you want to do is wait
until you find the hinge give, and notice I don’t stop
twisting and wiggling until I am actually
into the oyster, and that is the angle
that you want to go in at. So if you find yourself
really trying to dig into it, you’re doing something wrong. What we’re gonna do is break
the top shell away from the mussel,
and the way we do that is to basically turn the knife blade
perpendicular to the shell, and you see
that creates more space. Now, this is the part where
a lot of people screw it up. They think you need to cut
through the mussel like a knife blade, and really what you’re doing
is more like peeling a potato or an apple
or something like that. You’re gonna keep the knife
at a slight angle and grind it up
along the top shell and just clear that mussel away. You can take two or three passes
to make double sure, but ultimately you want
a nice clean top shell that doesn’t have any meat
dangling from it. So now is the crucial part
where we’re actually going to separate the oyster
from the bottom or the cup-side
down of the shell, and again we’re gonna mimic
the motion that we did on the top shell. You’re not going in and trying
to cut it away. You’re just taking
your thumb again and kind of clearing it off the bottom shell,
and there you have it. Now you want to
plate the oyster. It’s really important that you
have something on your plate to make sure that the oyster
doesn’t tip over. One of the worst things is when
you get served an oyster that’s been pre-shucked
like an hour or two before you eat it, and it’s been
put on a cookie sheet or on a regular plate
and it tips over, and what happens
is all the liquor dumps out, so what we’ve done here
is we are using kosher salt just to create a little bed
on our plate, and then the oyster sits nicely. Other things you can use
are crushed ice or really anything
that provides support. Shucking injuries do happen. When I’m shucking, the knife
will skip out from the hinge, and this part of my hand right
here is like a pin cushion. I have five or six scars
from the knife just going into that meaty
part of your thumb, so that’s something
to watch out for, and I’ve had some
really weird moments where I literally have
to put my hand up and say, “Is there a doctor
in the crowd?” and I’m getting triage done
in the lobby of some hotel by a surgeon who has had four
or five glasses of wine. The other thing is when you do
kind of skip out of the hinge, your knuckles end up hitting
the shell and you get cut, and you can actually see
I’ve got, like, probably 15 or 20 scars
from all the times I’ve gouged it
on the oyster shell. Last piece of protection
that we’ve got, particularly for beginners
is this side towel. You can put the oyster
into the side towel like so, and what this does
is it prevents the knife, if you skip out of the shell, it prevents the knife from
really going into your hand and adds a layer of protection. So you put it in the towel
with the hinge sticking out, and then you’re going in, same deal,
and then you unwrap it, pop it open, cut that mussel right out. ♪♪ Now the oysters are shucked. The important part
is that you eat them, and a lot of people think, particularly people
who are new to oysters, think you just dump
it down your gullet and try to swallow it
as fast as you possibly can, but these things are not cheap, and you just spent 10 minutes
opening all of them, so you want to make sure
you savor the experience. Essential part of eating
any oyster is getting an actual shot
of salt water from the place
where it was grown. You’re literally sipping
Duxbury Bay water down here in Brooklyn or out in San Francisco
or Austin or Chicago, wherever you may be
eating these things. One of the important things
about savoring it is to chew it. It also kind of unlocks all the rest of the flavor
in the oyster, and if you savor it for
3 or 4 or 5 seconds before you actually swallow it, that’s how you can actually
get into oyster eating. That, I think, is one of the
powerful things about oysters is that no matter where you are,
you’re getting a little bit of taste of the geography
of where it came from. The rest of it is pretty
self explanatory. [ Chuckles ] How to know when you’ve got
an oyster that’s poorly shucked? This is a good one
’cause it’s dry. [ Laughter ] This is an oyster
that is poorly shucked, and to me it is astounding
that someone can put something like this on your plate
for $3.50 at a restaurant. Basically you want to look for,
with an oyster that has been absolutely butchered, is it should look like
scrambled eggs or something that’s already been
into your stomach and come up, and the only way to do that
is to butcher it, like I said,
and a lot of people do it when they’re cutting
the adductor muscle. You know, they do it once, and the oyster is still attached
to the shell, so they do it again
and again and again, but basically you get this
really nasty oyster goop. You don’t have to settle
for poorly shucked oysters. Condiments and oysters,
things that enhance the flavor. You can squeeze a little bit
of lemon on there. It does a really nice job of adding a nice kind
of familiar citrus note. The other thing you can add,
you can add this with the lemon, is hot sauce, and the heat actually goes
really nicely with the lemon, so if you really want to
mask the flavor but not to cocktail sauce level, lemon and hot sauce
is a really great option. Mignonette is the classic
French answer to cocktail sauce, but all it basically
is, is vinegar and shallots, so you don’t want to take an
entire teaspoon of Mignonette. A little dab will do you. Horseradish is something that
people ask for all the time. I like it, but again it kind of
just reminds me of cocktail sauce,
and we hate cocktail sauce, so we don’t really use
a lot of horseradish, but I do not hold a grudge against people
that use horseradish alone. We’re going next-level
condiment. Here we have two different types
of caviar, conveniently sold
by Island Creek Oysters, and caviar is great
on its own obviously, but putting them on top
of oysters is pretty much
as good as it gets. ♪♪ That is just about everything
you probably cared to or could ever need
to know about oysters. Now we’re gonna
move on to clams. To make a mental note of is,
you need to switch knives when you’re shucking clams. Believe it or not, there’s
a different knife to shuck clams than there is for an oyster. How are they different? One thing is that there’s
one side of this knife that has actually got
a sharp edge, so this one you need to be
careful of in a different way ’cause it can slice you, whereas the oyster knife
you’re really digging in, but this sharp edge
is really important because
as opposed to the oyster, you’re actually gonna go in
through the bill of the clam. Now we want to get into this. Something to remember
about the clams is that the shells are not
as durable as the oysters, so one of the many reasons
why this is a little bit more of a delicate process
than shucking the oyster. The other thing to remember is that it’s kind of
a pain in the butt because the clams
have two adductor muscles, so we’re gonna have to
cut them both from the top and the bottom, so that’s four cuts in total, but priority number one “A” is getting in between
the shells. You can find there’s a tiny
little line right here. You can barely see it with all
the other lines that are on the clam shell, but if you take
your finger along it and just kind of clean it up,
you can see it better, and you’re gonna
take the fine edge, the sharp edge
of your clam knife, and you’re going to find
that little gap. And then you’re going to put it
in your hand like this, and you take the fat edge
of the knife that’s not in the clam
and you just squeeze, and then the knife ends up
in between the two shells. So once you’re in,
I do a little bit of a twist, but you’re gonna take
the top edge of the clam knife and get the inside
adductor muscle because what you don’t want
to do is if you just go in with the whole blade, you’ll actually just cut up
the clam meat, which we’re gonna try to
leave it as intact as possible. And then once you’ve got the two
adductor muscles cut, then it’s a little bit
more like the oyster game where you slide it all the way
back and pop that shell open. And this is the point at which
if you have left any meat, luckily I did it right
so I didn’t, if it’s still
attached in any way, when it’s partially opened
you can kind of go in and just clear the rest
of whatever piece of the clam is still stuck to the top shell. You can cut the hinge.
You can just break it off. Chuck the top shell. You’ve got two more cuts
to make, and here you can actually see these are
the two adductor muscles. They’re pink,
and they’re much smaller than the muscle in the oyster. And then it’s very easy
at this point obviously once
the top shell is off. You’re just taking your knife,
sliding it under the clam. You’ve got this nice,
sharp blade here, and separating it. Here we can do a flip, as well,
to make it really look good in case you have made any cuts with the knife,
and there you have it. That is a clam that’s ready
to eat right off the raw bar. One thing to remember about
tasting clams is that they don’t necessarily have all of the flavor nuance
that oysters do, but they do have quite
a bit of difference from, say, Massachusetts to Virginia, you know, kind of broader
strokes regionality, but the clams have
a more bitter flavor. They’ve got this nutty kind of walnut oil
bitter flavor to them. They’re really, really nice,
obviously with salt and a little bit
of a sweet finish. Maybe you went to the store. You don’t want to run right home
and start shucking and need to store
these things for a while. General rule of thumb
is you want to keep them cold, not freezing
because if you freeze them you will probably kill them, so you want to keep them
just in your refrigerator. You can have them up
to about 45 degrees. The other thing
is keep them damp, so you don’t want to put ice into the bowl
with the shellfish, and then the oyster
will most likely start to try to filter
that fresh water, and that will kill them. What you can do is you just take
a dish towel or even a paper towel if it’s not going to be too long
and just wet it so it’s damp, and then you just
put it over the bowl like so, and that will keep them nice
and damp and so they don’t dry out. So they’re portable. They keep well. They’re really in many ways
convenient, and now that you know
how to shuck, you can show off for your
friends and family at dinner. ♪♪ ♪♪

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