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Calling all oyster lovers!

Hi oyster lovers! I have a few questions re oysters in Normandy. How are they prepared? Are they eaten raw? If cooked, how are they cooked? Are oysters seasonal and if so when would they be in season? (This helps me plan when to go). What is your favourite way of eating them? Are they sold fresh at local markets in Normandy and can you safely cook them yourself?

Thank you for your help. I look forward to your replies!

Helen

Posted by
10296 posts

They are eaten raw, served in the half shell on a platter of ice. Lemon or a special vinaigrette is served with them. I've never seen them cooked in France or on a menu cooked. Just slide it into your mouth with the juice and voila. Enjoy!

Posted by
23 posts

I had an unpleasant experience many years ago with Pacific Northwest oysters that were served raw so have not attempted them raw since. I enjoy them lightly battered or panko encrusted and lightly pan fried. As long as they are fresh, I will like them, just not raw. Maybe it's time to give raw ones another try.

Posted by
214 posts

Helen, I'll have to agree with you about oysters from the Pacific Northwest. I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, and lived for a while in Everett, WA. While I was living there I tried some PNW oysters, and found them to be not nearly as enjoyable as the ones I grew up eating.

Posted by
2916 posts

If you eat oysters in Normandy or Brittany, French law requires that you drink Muscadet with them.:-)

Posted by
23 posts

Haha, really? I am not a big wine drinker, but I don't think that would be a problem! I might even try raw oysters again and the liquor may be a nice complement.

Posted by
2031 posts

If you're ready for raw oysters and nearby, Cancale is the place. In early September we spent a fun afternoon on the seawall slurping plates of raw oysters with lemon. There were lots of restaurants as well. I know some people who are averse to raw. If you want to prepare them yourself, you could briefly steam or broil them, but if you have never shucked a dozen or so oysters, it isn't easy.
I must confess, however, that the most extraordinary oyster, or maybe anything, I have ever eaten came from the Chesapeake on Tilghman Island, MD. Bon Appetite!

Posted by
23 posts

I think Jim who replied earlier would agree with you about Chesapeake Bay oysters being superb. Thanks for the tip about Cancale, I will look into putting it on my itinerary. I am also wondering if anyone has asked for their oysters cooked while dining in France and if restaurants will be willing to do this. Would I be met with a raised brow?!

Posted by
10296 posts

Raised brow? Probably. Followed by a string of difficult to decipher words accompanied by passionate arm gesticulations. If you try it, please report the results.

Posted by
23 posts

That's what I was afraid of, Bets. I might risk ridicule in order to enjoy them the way that's palatable to me. Or if I can find them at the market, I may buy them and cook them myself.

Posted by
2261 posts

If you get to Avignon there's a really nice group of guys over in the corner at Les Halles selling several different varieties from Normandy-it's all they do and they are spectacular. No cooking! Really good.

Here they are, with their various varieties.

Posted by
10 posts

Oysters on the seawall at Cancale, and at the picnic tables by the oyster beds at Ric-Sur-Belon. Two of our favorite memories in France last summer. You can get a dozen oysters for what you would pay for one oyster in Paris. Try the mignon sauce- it's good!

Posted by
16894 posts

I would stick to listed menu items in a restaurant, rather than trying to request that a new dish be created. Oyster recipes cooked with Calvados and cream exist online, so keep your eyes open as you're reading menus. Huîtres gratinées would be broiled, and not necessarily listed next to the cold/raw (cru) seafood list.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks so much Laura. At last some cooked oyster options. Broiled oysters sound divine. I will look out for them.

Cancale seems to be the place to be. A video on YouTube features the Cancale seaside oyster shacks serving freshly shucked oysters. Prices are so much cheaper than in Paris or farther inland. A bit of lemon juice and slurp! Do you let it all slide down or do you chew it?! It is such a foreign notion to me even though I live on the coast!

Dave: I was in Avignon last September but did not get to Les Halles. I did have the most tasty bucket of moules frites next to the carousel in Place de l'Horlage. A very memorable meal..

Posted by
11507 posts

ha ha .. raised brows.. heck that would be the kind reaction.. French restaurants do not cater to guests.. you eat what they have as they serve it , period.

I tend to side with them.. I abhor most cooked oysters.. fried being the worst to me.. but love love love them raw.. ( when they are cooked I think they get a stronger fishy flavor.. when raw. they taste of sea and air to me.. lol )

Posted by
23 posts

Wow, what a great description, "taste of sea and air" - makes me want to try them raw.

Posted by
782 posts

I was in Cancale in September and there are Oyster vendors on the beach where you can buy them,they are the best.
Mike

Posted by
23 posts

Wow, another vote for Cancale. Looks like the place to be, thanks Mike.

Posted by
1175 posts

We combined a trip to Mont St. Michel from a B&B near Bayeux, with a trip around the bay to Cancale, actually in Brittany, for lunch on the sea wall. It's only around 20 miles from MSM. Get to MSM early to beat the tour buses and 2 hours there is plenty. We then drifted back from Cancale along the back roads to our B&B outside Villers-Bocage, stopping in little villages to buy cheeses, trinkets, local wines, and Calvados of course. One of our best excursions driving around Normandy/Brittany.

Posted by
23 posts

George, that sounds so nice! Do you mind answering a couple more questions - where did you stay prior to the B&B in Bayeux and did you have oysters in Cancale? Cooked or raw? Thank you in advance.

Posted by
2297 posts

And yet another vote for Cancale. Not only are the oysters very fresh and local but it's a pretty town and many restaurants offer beautiful vistas. When I had oysters for the first time in my life as a teen I didn't care much for them at all. Like drinking salt water I thought ... That definitely changed ;-)

And if you want a change from the oysters, try some local lamb. There is sheep grazing on the salty meadows of Mt St Michel which creates a very special taste.

We actually stayed in a B&B just outside Dol de Bretagne from where we explored Brittany and Mt St Michel.

Posted by
23 posts

Wow! I have not heard of Cancale until I asked this question, but it looks as though I would have to seriously consider it. The lamb sounds great and would be a delightful backup if I can't get my oysters cooked. Hearing your experiences with "the first time", it definitely seems an acquired taste, yet so many of you were brave enough to try. I am tempted and almost convinced to give it another try. Who knows, I might develop a fondness.

Thanks Beatrix for the B&B recommendation. It looks lovely and reasonably priced.

Posted by
11507 posts

Helen.. you will be surprised.. as I said.. cooked oysters have a stronger fishier taste to me then the raw ones.. I eat cooked oysters on occasion ( like when I was a guest as a dinner party and hostess was so excited to serve me her Oysters Rockefeller because she recalled me saying I loved oysters.. she did them lovely and I enjoyed them.. but another friend served me fried oysters and I could barely choke them down..difference is fried oysters are more cooked then a lightly cooked oysters rockerfeller) I think heat is not the delicate oysters friend.. lol

I like raw oysters with a simple mignonette sauce.. ( chopped shallots and some red wine vinegar) ..

Posted by
2916 posts

Give it another try, Helen. My first experience with raw shellfish, about 40 years ago, was with clams, rather than oysters. I had a few, and ran to the bathroom because I thought I was going to throw up. It took awhile before I would try raw oysters. Now, I can't say I crave them, but when I have the opportunity I'm happy to have a bunch. Especially if there's a bottle of Muscadet at hand!

Posted by
23 posts

All your kindness and understanding has made me decide to give raw oysters another try. It will go down with lemon juice, accompanied by the Muscadet you talked about. Watch out stomach here it comes!