Oysters: The Aphrodisiac Of Legend

You have to wonder who first thought of eating oysters, who pulled the rock-like shell from the sea, struggled to open it, and said, "Hey, this looks good! Let's eat it. Raw."

Well, it was a good idea. The briny sweetness of oysters has made them a delicacy since the beginning of recorded history. And let's not forget their other virtues: Oysters are low in calories, rich in iron, and off the charts in vitamin B12. (OK, they're not going to win any beauty contests.)

Oysters' reputation as an aphrodisiac most likely originated as a result of their high zinc content, since men with zinc deficiencies sometimes suffer in the sperm count and libido departments. It's unlikely that you'll see a perceptible difference after one meal, but that's a moot point. The real aphrodisiac is simply knowing that your Valentine is feeding you oysters. Zinc, shminc.

If oysters are on your dinner menu, you have a lot of options...

Buy oysters that feel heavy and are completely closed. The most important oyster tip, though, is to get someone else to shuck them (particularly if you're a surgeon or a pianist - shucking oysters is the quickest and easiest way to cut your hands to ribbons). Once they're shucked, you're home free.

Try these fried oysters with a seasoned flour, egg and bread crumb coating:

2 cups oysters, drained and thoroughly dried
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
Lots of dry Panko bread crumbs

Have three bowls ready. Combine flour, salt, and paprika in the first bowl and mix well. In the second bowl, whisk eggs with water. Plunk your Panko bread crumbs in the third bowl. Dip the oysters into the flour mixture, then into the egg mixture, and then into the Panko. Fry in hot oil at the point of smoking until caramelized and browned, about two to three minutes.

If you can't find Panko you can try to use coarsely ground bread crumbs, or just take some unflavored croutons, put into a pillowcase and hammer the beejeezus out of them!

Or you can try these ways of preparing them:

  • Barbecue them by putting them (in their half shells) on the grill with a spoonful of barbecue sauce.
  • Make a frittata with oysters, leeks, and a little Gruyere cheese (and eggs, of course).
  • Put a dab of salsa on oysters on the half shell, and broil them for about 5 minutes. Serve hot, with sour cream.
  • Lightly sauté them, and serve on a bed of spinach with lemon butter.
  • Add them to poultry stuffing.
  • If you can't get fresh oysters, or they're prohibitively expensive, try the smoked kind on crackers or toast.
  • Substitute oysters for clams in chowder. Add corn kernels if you like.
  • Deep-fry oysters coated in cornmeal and black pepper, and serve them in a sandwich with tartar sauce and tomato slices.
  • Add them to an Asian-style stir-fry.

Or, of course, just serve them on the half-shell with a squeeze of lemon. That should maximize their - ahem - zinc.

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