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First, prepare the sauce (recipe and instructions below) and let the flavors blend while you prepare the oysters.
To prepare the oysters:
Begin by shucking oysters. Find a durable, thick cloth and fold it over several times to create a square; this will steady the oysters as you shuck them and also protect your hand. Using the towel as a mitt, hold the oyster firmly on a flat surface. Insert the tip of your oyster knife between the shell halves, and work it around one side to the other as you pry it open. Using the knife, cut the muscles away from the top, flat shell, bend the shell back, and discard it. Run the knife underneath the oyster to detach it completely, but leave it in its shell with all the liquid (take care not to cut the meat itself or lose the liquid). Nestle the oysters in a bed of crushed ice or wet rock salt to keep them steady. Serve immediately with the mignonette sauce.
Classic Mignonette Sauce:
6 Tablespoons champagne vinegar (3 ounces)
1 1/2 Tablespoons finely chopped shallot
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
In a small bowl, whisk together the champagne vinegar, shallots, sugar, salt, pepper and parsley. Can be used immediately, or cover and chill for an hour or more, up to a day ahead, to allow the flavors to come together.
For Cucumber Mignonette Sauce:
Using the recipe above, substitute rice wine vinegar for the champagne vinegar, leave out the parsley, and add:
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 cucumber, peeled and minced
(Another possibility is substituting finely chopped Asian pear for the cucumber.)
For Meyer Lemon Mignonette,
Using the recipe above, substitute Meyer lemon juice for the champagne vinegar, leave out the sugar, and use a liberal amount of fresh cracked pepper as well as salt to taste.