OystersThis month’s Right Bite Fish of the Month is farmed oysters.

At a recent Right Bite dinner one of our partner restaurants, Shaw’s Crab House, schooled guests in shucking and slurping oysters. Uncommon fare for many folks in the Midwest, these delectable coastal residents have quite a culinary history! From Aphrodite to hungry Roman emperors, oysters are revered for their romance and luxury. The Right Bite team thinks oysters are so tasty; you do not have to be a goddess or royalty to enjoy them.

In 19th century New York City, oysters were abundant in local waters and everyone delighted in this scrumptious seafood. Historians estimate that New Yorkers ate them at least twice a week! New York oysters were shipped throughout the country, even to the Midwest. So what happened to all those native Manhattan mollusks? Unfortunately, an increase in industrial pollution caused a significant decline in wild populations.

Consumer demand and environmental damage to the world’s wild population launched a new source for oysters. Today, 95 percent of the global oyster supply is farmed. Oysters are well suited for farming as they do not rely on wild fish for food. Instead they are filter feeders, clearing the water of excess nitrogen and phytoplankton.

Compared to finfish and crustaceans, oysters are farmed in stationary suspension systems which pose little risk of habitat damage or escape. For these reasons, the Right Bite team gives farmed oysters two forks up as one of the tastiest and most sustainable choices in seafood. Oyster farming actually helps preserve ocean health, while satisfying our appetites!

This holiday season try cooking our Easy Oysters Rockefeller. This classic dish can be prepared in less than 30 minutes and your guests will leave cheering. (Mine sure did!)

Easy Oysters Rockefeller
Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

• 12 farmed oysters, shucked and shells reserved
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 cup spinach
• 1 cup scallions, chopped
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 3/4 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2 teaspoons anise extract
• 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
• 2 teaspoons hot sauce
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• Parmesan cheese, finely grated
• Nutmeg, to taste
• Rock or Kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix garlic, spinach, scallions and oil in a food processor or blender until even consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Remove spinach mixture and fill clean processor with butter, anise, breadcrumbs, hot sauce and lemon juice. Blend well.

3. Create 1/2 inch bed of rock salt in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Lay oysters on top of the salt, in a steady position. Spoon 1 tablespoon of spinach mixture and 1/2 tablespoon of breadcrumb mixture on each oyster half. Sprinkle with cheese and nutmeg.

4. Bake on top oven rack until the Parmesan cheese melts and oysters begin to curl, about 8 to 9 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Posted by Brooke Havlik, conservation