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Is there anything better than oysters on the half shell with mignonette sauce? Turns out there is: oysters with mignonette granita. This genius party trick came into our lives via a now-long-gone restaurant on the Hoboken, NJ waterfront. Thankfully the magic lives on.

oysters on the half shell with mignonette granita on a platter over crushed ice
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Why we love this recipe

Briny, beautiful oysters on the half shell are a hell yes or hell no proposition. Much as I love it when someone converts to Team Yes on their own, I’m not here to convince detractors. Instead, I’m here to help those of you already in the know to elevate your oyster experience to the next level, and to make it comfortably attainable at home.

Oysters with mignonette granita:

  • Make a great thing even greater by turning a beautiful classic sauce into a fun, low-key innovation that was clearly meant to be
  • Demystify the cleaning, shucking, and serving process so you’ll feel confident serving oysters at home (after a little practice)
  • Will become your new favorite party trick that lasts a lifetime

I first published this recipe here way back in 2009. I’ve since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same. If you’re a fan of old-school blog narrative, scroll below the recipe card to read the post’s original text.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make mignonette granita. You will, of course, also need some oysters.

ingredients in bowls
  • Red wine vinegar is the classic choice and makes a stunning pink granita. You can use champagne vinegar if you prefer. Both are delicious.
  • A minced shallot contributes tons of beautiful flavor
  • A few peppercorns add a hint of heat
  • Tiny amounts of salt and sugar balance the vinegar’s acidity

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a gorgeous batch of mignonette granita. Get all the details in the recipe card below, and scroll down to learn how to shuck oysters.

  1. Place all ingredients in a very small pot and bring to a a boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  2. Pour cooled mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into a small baking dish.
  3. Freeze the mixture, scraping every hour or so with a fork to break up the ice into small pieces, until fully frozen.
  4. Serve in a small, very cold bowl as a condiment for oysters on the half shell.

How to clean oysters

One at a time, hold oysters under cold running water. Scrub with a firm-bristled brush to remove all grit from the exterior, then set right-side-up on a baking sheet filled with crushed ice.

There will inevitably be a bit of sand trapped in the hinge, which you’ll encounter while shucking — there’s nothing you can do about it at this stage. When you find it later, know that you haven’t done anything wrong.

How to shuck oysters at home

Shucking oysters at home can feel intimidating at first, but with a few simple tips and a little practice, you’ll find it fun and empowering, promise. It’s one of those super-useful party tricks that will serve you for life. 

Here’s what to do. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.

how to shuck oysters at home step by step
  1. First you’ll identify the top and bottom of the oyster. The top shell is flat, and the bottom is cupped. This is more obvious on some oysters than others, but there’s always at least some difference between top and bottom. Orient the oyster right-side-up so you won’t lose the delicious liquor inside when you open it. Then you’ll find the hinge and insert the tip of the knife into it. You’ll need to use a combination of knowledge and strength to identify exactly where and how far to insert — you’ll quickly get a feel for it as you practice.
  2. Once the knife is inserted far enough to create a useful lever that will open the shell rather than chipping off bits of it, you’ll give the handle a good, strong twist to pop the hinge open. This is where you’ll encounter an extra bit of grit, so wipe the tip of the knife clean on your towel before proceeding.
  3. Insert the clean knife tip between the top and bottom shells near the opening you created, and run it all the way around the edge to loosen the top shell from the bottom.
  4. Detach the oyster from the top shell by scraping the muscle with the knife, and discard the top shell. Then use the knife to detach the oyster from the bottom shell, too. Do your best to keep it level so you won’t spill too much of the liquor. Place prepared oyster on a platter filled with crushed ice.

Shucking & serving tools for oysters with mignonette

Here are my favorite basic tools for oysters:

  • Any firm-bristled scrub brush for food will work well. Here’s the one pictured in the video.
  • The OXO knife has a nice, soft handle that helps prevent blisters if you’re shucking a lot of oysters at once
  • No-nonsense dish cloths or towels help protect your hands and can head straight to the washing machine when you’re done
  • Cut-resistant gloves are a nice insurance policy
  • For serving, I sometimes use my deviled egg platter set over a sheet pan of crushed ice
  • Or use any large serving platter with a raised edge and filled with a layer of crushed ice. One of my favorites, which you’ll see pictured across Umami Girl, is this one. The copper tray in this post is no longer available.
oysters on the half shell with mignonette granita on a platter over crushed ice

Expert tips and FAQs

What is mignonette?

Mignonette sauce is a lovely little condiment for oysters made of vinegar, shallot, peppercorns, and sometimes a bit of wine, sugar, salt and herbs.

What is granita?

Granita is a frozen or semi-frozen dessert made by raking flavored liquid with a fork as it freezes, breaking up the ice into small pieces. Oysters with mignonette granita are a delightful example of the culinary gestalt this website exists for.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

You can make the mignonette granita far in advance if you like. Keep it frozen in an airtight container for up to three months.

Oysters that have just been harvested can be stored, unopened, in a nice cold fridge for up to a week. Always buy from a trusted supplier.

Shuck oysters shortly before serving and keep on ice.

Champagne mignonette

I love the beautiful, jewel-toned pink of mignonette granita made with red wine vinegar. But champagne vinegar — or a combination of champagne vinegar and a little bit of Champagne — also makes a lovely mignonette. You can swap into this recipe, without further changes, 1/2 cup champagne vinegar, with or without two additional tablespoons Champagne or other good-quality sparkling wine.

More show-stopping seafood appetizers

oysters on the half shell with mignonette granita on a platter over crushed ice

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oysters on the half shell with mignonette granita on a platter over crushed ice
4.62 from 21 votes

Oysters with Mignonette Granita

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
Mignonette granita is a fun, visually stunning riff on the classic mignonette sauce that often accompanies oysters on the half shell. Serve this condiment on a platter of freshly shucked oysters. (Learn to shuck from the accompanying video — it’s easier than you think.)
Prep: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 5 minutes
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Ingredients 

  • ½ cup (120 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 5 peppercorns, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 dozen oysters

Instructions 

To make the mignonette granita

  • Combine all ingredients in a very small pot. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 30 seconds, then remove from heat and let cool completely.
  • Pour cooled mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into a small baking dish or other freezer-safe container just big enough to hold the mixture in a shallow layer. (Protip: save the strained shallot and toss into your next salad.)
  • Freeze the mixture, scraping every hour or so with a fork to break up the ice into small pieces, until fully frozen (probably about 3 hours).
  • Serve in a small, very cold bowl as a condiment for oysters on the half shell.

To clean and shuck the oysters

  • Start by cleaning the shell thoroughly, using a firm-bristled brush under cold running water to remove all grit from the exterior. There will inevitably be a bit of sand trapped in the hinge, which you'll encounter while shucking — there's nothing you can do about it at this stage, so when you find it later, know that you haven't done anything wrong.
  • First you'll identify the top and bottom of the oyster. The top shell is flat, and the bottom is cupped. This is more obvious on some oysters than others, but there's always at least some difference between top and bottom. Orient the oyster right-side-up so you won't lose the delicious liquor inside when you open it.
  • Then you'll find the hinge and insert the tip of the knife into it. You'll need to use a combination of knowledge and strength to identify exactly where and how far to insert — you'll quickly get a feel for it as you practice.
  • Once the knife is inserted far enough to create a useful lever that will open the shell rather than chipping off bits of it, you'll give the handle a good, strong twist to pop the hinge open. This is where you'll encounter an extra bit of grit, so wipe the tip of the knife clean on your towel before proceeding.
  • Insert the clean knife tip between the top and bottom shells near the opening you created, and run it all the way around the edge to loosen the top shell from the bottom.
  • Detach the oyster from the top shell by scraping the muscle with the knife, and discard the top shell.
  • Then use the knife to detach the oyster from the bottom shell, too. Do your best to keep it level so you won't spill too much of the liquor.
  • Place prepared oyster on a platter filled with crushed ice.

Step-by-step video

Notes

  1. You can make the mignonette granita far in advance if you like. Keep it frozen in an airtight container for up to three months.
  2. Oysters that have just been harvested can be stored, unopened, in a nice cold fridge for up to a week. Always buy from a trusted supplier.
  3. Shuck oysters shortly before serving and keep on ice.
I first published this recipe here way back in 2009. I've since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 51kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 25mg, Sodium: 98mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Snacks and Starters
Cuisine: French
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Original 2009 text

Raw oysters, hard alcohol and grilled peaches are only the breakfast of champions under certain controlled circumstances. Although I can think of a few others, the best excuse for this type of tomfoolery is a vacation. I’ve been looking for a reason to share this week’s recipe with you for quite some time, and vacation seems like just the one — even though the inspiration for the recipe comes from a restaurant in our home town.

The erstwhile 3 Forty Grill

Hoboken’s 3 Forty Grill sports a funny little raw bar. In part, it’s funny bad, because in direct contravention of the Little Raw Bar Book of Etiquette in my head, they won’t let you order fewer than six of a particular type of oyster. It’s not that I have a hard time polishing off six oysters in a matter of seconds while my dining companions are searching for the tiny stud earring I “accidentally” dropped on the floor, trust me. It’s just that for several years now, I’ve been madly scribbling on a tiny part of the white space in my brain, trying to figure out what could motivate such a policy. 

I’ve watched plenty of experts shuck oysters and even shucked my own thumb on occasion, thank you very much, and I have yet to encounter anyone who prefers doing six at once over doing just the one.

A very special granita

Under ordinary circumstances, a girl might vote with her wallet and order her oysters elsewhere. But my friends, the oyster-eating circumstances at 3 Forty are far from ordinary. To balance out the funny bad, they offer funny good — funny oh so good — in a tiny little metal cup. The goodness has no given name, but those of us who have been around the oyster trough and the dessert tray a time or two will recognize it instantly as a Mignonette Granita.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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13 Comments

  1. Thank you Umami Girl for this recipe! I have wondered for years how to recreate this granita and never knew where to start. I was at 340 Grill last night and tried to order 8 oysters (2 for each of us) and they wouldn’t do it. They also refused to seat us in the dining area that was empty because of some “reservations” They have great food but stupid policies. Maybe next you can figure out how they make that Rosemary RedWine Butter that they slather on the Steak Frites