Monday, June 22, 2009

Oyster Elbow

I think I have oyster elbow. 

I am at the ballet today, (trying to get in shape) and getting ready to do pushups, and my left elbow is terribly achey and sore. It takes me a while to figure out what I would have possibly done to myself, and then I realize: I bet I hurt myself shucking oysters all weekend. 

I have probably shucked more than 100 Oysters in the past two weeks. And, I have never shucked an oyster before working at The Restaurant. 

Each chef has their own unique way of shucking. Chef B, and The Sous like to hold a kitchen towel in their hand, and shuck the oyster that way. Chef M likes to put the kitchen towel on his working surface and wrap the towel around the shell to stabilize it. Some Chefs wear fancy gloves, and some Chefs use different kinds of oyster knives.

And me? Well, I am not a Chef, so I like to just get the little sucker open in less than five minutes, however I can. Yes. Five minutes. For ONE oyster. I was really bad at shucking them in the beginning. 

Oh, and not breaking the shell all over the place is another goal.

For my first oyster, I wrap the towel in my hand and nestle the shell in my palm like The Sous has taught me. I get out my oyster knife, and try to wedge it into the hinge. Not only did I not pop open the oyster, but I break the first layer of  shell and get my oyster knife stuck. Eh. Not good. 

So, to remedy this mistake, I just decide to push the knife through the oyster. This, of course, severs and slashes open the oyster meat. Then, I scrape around with the oyster knife, like I am digging for buried treasure, and I finally pop open the top shell, and try to abrade the muscle from its home. This breaks the oyster meat in half. 


Debris, mud, and the bits of shell look like a brunoise all over my demolished oyster. And the coveted brine? All over the cutting board, my kitchen towel, and my apron. 

I show The Sous. He laughs at the wreckage, and gives me another one, and we start the learning process again. He can shuck an oyster in about ten seconds with finesse. After watching him do this about four times, I am finally starting to get the hang of it. It is more of a slight twist and pop, instead of a jab and slash. More technique, less brawn. 

When I have done four Kumamoto oysters without turning them into hamburger, in less than five minutes, I finally get to top them with the beautiful finishing oil, finely minced apple, and freshly grated horseradish. I pack a mini All-Clad pan with ice and arrange them so that their hinges all face in towards the center. 

The order only took fifteen minutes or so, when it could have taken three, but I did it. 

When the night is over, my shoulder is aching, and my left elbow feels like I have torn something. 

But, I can shuck an oyster. In less than 5 minutes. 

Now on to the Cherry Clams. Wish me luck on those. I feel they will be even more difficult. I will probably title that post Clam palm. 


  1. If you do many more and figure out the best way, TEACH ME PLEASE!! Remember at the "Tapas" dinner club?.....when I served 6 out of 30 oysters, because I couldn't get the damn things open!! I would love for you to show me how!!

  2. The last French Restaurant I worked in I headed up the large Pantry Kitchen and seeing an order for Oysters come down the pipe was always the bane of the day. Granted sometimes I was in the groove, but it always through off my rhythm for all other dishes on waiting tickets.

  3. Holly-Will do! I will bring some oysters and an oyster knife to the gorge this summer. We can have at them:)

    Big Dirty-I agree! I dread when I see an order for Kumamotos on the ticket. Especially when it has a 6.0 next to it:)