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No pearls, but these oyster dishes sure are rich

  • Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, oysters alexander. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, oysters alexander. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. A raw oyster is dredged in a flour mixture before being fried. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. A raw oyster is dredged in a flour mixture before being fried. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, fried oyster salad. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, fried oyster salad. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, in the foreground, oysters alexander and in the rear, oyster pie. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, in the foreground, oysters alexander and in the rear, oyster pie. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, oysters alexander. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)
  • Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. A raw oyster is dredged in a flour mixture before being fried. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)
  • Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, fried oyster salad. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)
  • Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber. Pictured, in the foreground, oysters alexander and in the rear, oyster pie. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Raw oysters are slippery and seductive, tasting of ocean and salt and fresh sea breezes. Cooking firms the oyster meat and gives it a smooth, custardy texture. But cook it too long and it turns to rubber.

Inland Seafood’s Vicky Murphy says, to cook an oyster properly, you want to gently warm it. You’ll know it’s done when the edge just begins to curl.

Inland Seafood has multiple distribution centers and provides seafood for more than 4,000 restaurants and 1,500 retail outlets in the Southeast, and Murphy has spent many years teaching the best way to cook that seafood.

While raw oyster connoisseurs debate the merits of the Beausoleil vs. the Malpeque, does variety make a difference when you’re cooking the oyster? Robert Pidgeon, Inland Seafood’s general manager, says no. “In cooked oysters, the flavor nuances so important in raw oysters don’t really matter,” said Pidgeon.

Only five species of oysters are harvested for eating. “The oyster from the Chesapeake Bay is the same species of oyster as the one from the Delaware Bay and on up to New Brunswick, Canada. The flavor variation comes from the season, the salinity of the water they’re growing in and even the way the tides fluctuate. There are any number of variables that determine that oyster’s flavor,” he said.

Murphy knows that doesn’t stop oyster lovers from debating which oyster variety they prefer, raw or cooked. She’s from Tallahassee, Fla., and partial to the oysters harvested in Apalachicola. She’s also partial to smaller oysters, preferring those that can be eaten in just a bite or two.

If Pidgeon is enjoying cooked oysters, chances are he’s enjoying one of the time-tested dishes like Oysters Rockefeller or Oysters Bienville. “Or I make a dish I call Robert’s Oysters, topping the shucked oysters with shallot butter and crisp bacon before baking,” said Pidgeon.

Pidgeon says the biggest misconception about eating oysters is that they should only be eaten in months spelled with an “R.” “That old wives’ tale dates from the days before refrigeration. If you’re getting your oysters from a reputable retailer with a good turnover and food safety procedures in place, there’s no reason not to eat oysters all year around,” said Pidgeon.

Related

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Serves 4 Vegetable oil, for frying 24 small- to medium-size oysters, shucked 2 egg whites 1 cup all-purpose flour ½ cup cornmeal 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper ½ pound arugula Lemon Dressing (see recipe) Lemon wedge, for garnish In a deep skillet, heat ¼-inch vegetable oil to very hot. While the oil is heating, whisk the egg whites together …

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Makes 1 cup If you can’t find Meyer lemons (they’re in season right now) substitute 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon orange juice. ½ cup olive oil ¼ cup fresh Meyer lemon juice ¼ cup grated Parmesan 1 tablespoon mayonnaise 2 teaspoons minced garlic Salt and freshly ground pepper In a small bowl combine the olive oil, …

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