With oysters, particularly some delicate eastern American ones served on the half shell, less quite frequently is indeed more, but not always, as this quick recipe demonstrates. It is from The Table: How to Buy Food, How to Cook It and How to Serve It (New York 1889) by Alessandro Fillipini, a celebrated nineteenth century chef at Delmonico’s in New York. Filippini provides a recipe for what amounts to ramped up mignonette for saucing oysters that, he writes, belongs to the great Dumas, who incidentally appreciated good English as well as French food. Enough sauce for about dozen oysters.
-1 heaped teaspoon chives
-about ½ teaspoon minced parsley
-a minced shallot
-1 heaped teaspoon salt
-scant teaspoon white pepper
-1 teaspon excellent olive oil
-“six drops of Tabasco sauce”
-1 teaspoon Worcestershire
-2-3 oz “good vinegar”
- Mix together the chives, parsley, shallot, salt and pepper.
- Add the olive oil to the mixture, then the Tabasco and Worcestershire followed by the vinegar.
- Stir the mignonette vigorously with a spoon to marry the ingredients and serve it with raw oysters.
- Tabasco, while admittedly a classic, has a little too much harsh, woody heat for some people. They may substitute any hot sauce of their choice.
- As the quotation marks indicate, Filippini does not specify a particular vinegar. Any number of different ones work with this recipe, as well as lemon juice. You might try Champagne, raspberry or a very good red wine vinegar. The Editor is partial to malt vinegar.
- Conventional mignonettes use black instead of white pepper, but then they dispense with all of Dumas’ ingredients except for that, the shallot and vinegar.
- Joan Reardon quotes the original recipe in its entirety in Oysters: A Culinary Celebration (Guilford CT 2004) but unaccountably describes its source as ‘Filippini of Delmonico’s, The Table, 1891.