If you must sauce, a drizzle of homemade mignonette is like magic. It’s the best way to add notes of pepper, herbs, or citrus to a half shell without overwhelming the main attraction — the Wellfleet oyster in its own briny liquor. Three writerly cooks offer their favorite versions of the vinegar-based oyster accompaniment here. —The editors
Growing up in the desert meant I had to be wary of the provenance of all seafood, but especially oysters. Whenever I was somewhere I knew I could trust to handle them correctly, I tried as many different kinds as I could get. My favorite ones always tasted a little bit like cucumbers. So, this mignonette became my favorite.
½ cup champagne vinegar
¼ cup seedless cucumber, finely chopped
1 small shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground black pepper
Obviously, I’ve come around to Wellfleets being my one true love since then, but what a revelation that first Kumamoto was. —Rebecca Orchant
Wellfleet Oyster Wash
A couple years back I grabbed dill from a patio pot of herbs on our deck and was surprised how bright and beautiful it was with our oysters. I like the cracked coriander in this as well, but if you don’t have coriander seeds, it’s no big deal. The lemon zest, dill, red onion combination is a winner all the same.
Finely grated zest of lemon
3 Tbsp. champagne and/or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. very finely minced red onion
Cracked black pepper and/or coriander seeds
A heaping tsp. chopped fresh dill
If you want the dill bright green, add it at the last minute; it’s delicious if it sits, but the acid from the vinegar makes it dull green. Which kind of reminds me of seagrass, in a good way. —Katherine Alford
I’ll say this as someone who eats oysters pretty much every day: most people oversauce their oysters and kill the natural flavor. If you use a sauce, whether it’s cocktail sauce or a mignonette, use very little — literally half a teaspoon. More than that is an injustice.
6 Tbsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar
6 Tbsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
¼ cup jalapeño pepper, finely diced (about one pepper)
¼ cup red Fresno chili, finely diced (about one pepper)
2 Tbsp. shallot, finely diced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
A few grinds of black pepper
Zest and juice of ½ lime
Measure the seasoned and unseasoned rice wine vinegars in a bowl. Remove the seeds and core from the peppers and cut into a small dice; chop the cilantro fine; dice the shallots and add all the vegetables to the vinegars. Zest and juice the lime into the mixture. Add the black pepper. Mix well, then let the sauce rest for 30 minutes — if you can wait, the flavors really bloom.
Or … my latest favorite way to eat oysters is with one small dash of tabasco and a half squeeze of lemon. Which is also the best way to eat a littleneck. —Mac Hay