When you're first starting out with oysters, it can be tricky to know what garnish to go with them. Luckily, oysters pair well with so many flavours, and the toppings are usually relatively simple to make. Enter this tomato and vermouth granita. It's the perfect garnish, because the icy texture and savory tomato flavour easily compliments the smooth saltiness of the oyster. Plus, it's dead easy to make, with only three ingredients.
What is Granita?
Granita is actually usually an Italian frozen fruit dessert, but obviously that's not what we're doing here. We're using tomato juice, freezing it with some vermouth, "fluffing" it with a fork (much like you would do to rice or couscous after it was done cooking) and then freezing it again. When it comes to granita as an oyster garnish, some common flavours are lemon, lime and champagne granita (which I can't wait to experiment with).
The texture of granita is what makes it stand out. It's a perfect balance to the smooth oyster, and honestly, it's just fun to eat.
How to Make Granita
It couldn't be easier. We're going to mix all the ingredients, freeze them, scrape it with a fork halfway through, and then again when we're ready to serve. That's literally it!
When looking at oyster garnish, it's key that the flavours compliment, not overwhelm the flavour of the oyster. You want that to remain the star of the show. At the same time, it's nice to have some contrast in the texture (more about that later).
That being said, typically, only a very small spoonful of the oyster garnish is added to the oyster itself, and people typically serve themselves. This means that you have permission to play around with some stronger flavours (the classic oyster garnish is a mignonette, made with red wine vinegar and raw shallots, for example).
In this granita, we're looking at three flavours: tomato, dry vermouth, and lemon. The tomato flavour leads the way here, with the tangy lemon balancing it out. The vermouth brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole thing - and helps keep the texture of the granita from being just a frozen block of ice.
The texture of this granita garnish is one of my favourite things about it. The shaved ice effect is shocking to your mouth, and you're not expecting that intensely savory flavour of the tomato to come out of it.
How to Prepare and Eat Raw Oysters
Note: I have a whole how-to guide on how to do this, so if you're new or need a refresher, check it out!
This is actually where most people get tripped up. I get it, ok? I was super intimidated by oysters on the half shell for the longest time. They looked weird, and I could not figure out how that texture was going to work. But I promise once you get past this, they are so worth it. So let's start with the preparation.
First, you need to make sure the little guys are good. Try to get them from a local fish market. Ask questions of your fish monger - they are so knowledgeable! If you're worried, tell them. Ask them about the different sizes and flavours of the oysters they have, and where they're from. Oyster from the pacific tend to have a sweeter flavour, while those from the Atlantic are more salty and briny. Make sure the shells are closed. If you get home and any of them are open, throw them out.
Shucking oysters, especially the first few times you do it, can be a bit of an ordeal. They're wily bastards, and they don't take especially kindly to being forced open. I love this video on how to do it. And remember, don't give up! You can do it! If you're new, just plan on it taking you a few extra minutes. Oh, and don't forget, you're going to need an oyster shucker and, if you want, oyster gloves for safety.
how to serve fresh oysters
Once you've got the oysters shucked, with most of the liquor in tact, hopefully, you're going to want a very large serving platter covered in ice to lay the oysters on. You can use regular ice cubes, but crushed ice is the preferred method. In addition to the Champagne mignonette, I like to serve fresh lemon wedges, regular hot sauce, and grated horseradish. These are all classic pairings with oysters, and it's great to give people some options.
Again, the go to here is Champagne, especially if you're serving it with Champagne mignonette. The bubbles in the Champagne pair so well with the texture of the oysters which is super smooth. Another great recommendation is a Sauvignon Blanc. The high acidity and the notes of lemon make it a particularly great pairing alongside the oysters.
Typically, I like to serve oysters as an appetizer, but if you're doing more of a cocktail party, or even if you want the oysters to be the main event, there's definitely some great options. Try something like a potato salad, or if you're going with a steakhouse theme, Romesco flank steak and Caesar salad are good options too!
Other Oyster Garnish
The traditional mignonette is always a great go-to, as are lemons, a dash hot sauce, and horseradish. But feel free to experiment! These are some of my favourite mignonettes and toppings:
Spicy Tomatillo and Habanero Mignonette with Raw Oysters
In Conclusion, just GO for it!
I know that the entire oyster-ness of it all can be intimidating, from the buying to the preparation to the actual eating. But if you're curious, just dive in headfirst. I'm 99% positive you will be surprised to the upside. And let me know how it goes too!
If the shell is open, throw it out. Also, if when you open the shell it smells like the most horrific dead animal. Trust me, you'll know. You'll want to burn your entire house down, not put that thing in your mouth.
The fresher, the better, but it can definitely keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.
It depends on where they're coming from, how far away they are, and the quality. Generally they cost between $1-$3 per oyster.
Fresh Oysters with Easy Tomato and Vermouth Granita Garnish
- 1 C tomato juice
- ½ C dry vermouth
- ¼ C lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 12 oysters freshly shucked
- 1 dash hot sauce, to serve optional
- Combine the tomato juice, dry vermouth and lemon juice in a small, Tupperware container, or a shallow baking dish. Cover with a lid or with plastic wrap. Lay flat in the freezer.
- After four hours, remover from the freezer, and scrape the granita with a fork, so it crumbles into small ice crystals or chunks. Return to the freezer for at least another four hours.
- When ready to serve, remove from the freezer, and scrape again with a fork. Serve in a small bowl with fresh oysters, and optional hot sauce.
Hi, I'm Cara! I'm a food writer, journalist, and recipe developer. I'm obsessed good food, good wine, good cocktails and entertaining. I've picked up a few tips over the years, and love sharing them with others.