- 12 medium oysters whichever variety you prefer
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/3 cup minced shallot
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 ounce prosciutto finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt for the pan
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.
To bake the oysters:
- Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the center.
- In a small pan or pot, melt the butter with the shallot over medium heat.
- Simmer until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the basil, parsley, and lemon zest.
- Line the bottom of a rimmed half sheet pan or heavy 12-inch frying pan with about ¼ inch of Kosher salt, or use an oyster grill pan like the one pictured.
- Arrange shucked oysters in the pan.
- Spoon some of the herb butter into each half shell.
- Bake for 10 minutes, until just done. The oysters will continue to cook a bit from the residual heat, and you want to keep them beautifully tender.
- Sprinkle each piece with a little bit of chopped prosciutto and some lemon juice.
- Serve warm straight from the pan.
You can make this recipe with impeccably fresh oysters of any variety. I live in the northeast of the U.S., where we’re very lucky to have quite a few large, briny, hyper-local varieties. I’d recommend learning about your own local options, if any, and otherwise buying from a purveyor you trust. Butter plays a big role in this recipe, so use a good one. I always try to use a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn’t have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold at many supermarkets in the U.S. for a reasonable price and ticks all the boxes. For the fresh herbs, I’ve suggested a combination of basil and parsley — but you can substitute or incorporate other soft leafy herbs that complement seafood, like dill, chervil, chives, sorrel, or even a little bit of thyme. You can shuck the oysters, prepare and apply the shallot herb butter, and prep the prosciutto and lemon juice a few hours in advance. Arrange the oysters in the pan, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Right before serving, fire up the oven, bake the oysters, and add the final toppings. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. You can store them in the shells or decant them into an airtight container and toss with pasta. Rewarm over low heat so you don’t overcook the oysters.