Huitres, fines de claires

Saturday market at Orthez, with a selection of oysters from Aquitaine
Saturday market at Orthez, with a selection of oysters from Aquitaine

In France, the appellation “fines de claires de Marennes-Oleron” attached to the name of an oyster means that it has been ‘finished’ in one of the claires or tidal basins along the coast of Aquitaine, between La Rochelle and the mouth of the Gironde river.  The idea is that spending time in the nutrient-rich environment of the tidal basin assures an oyster with beautifully firm flesh and the rich, mineral taste of its terroir.  It often (but not always) also gives the flesh of the oysters a subtle green hue, especially the gills that filter the rich waters of the claires.

First half dozen ready to be enjoy.ed
First half dozen ready to be enjoyed.

The smaller oysters shown here are #2 Charente maritime, from the coastline just north of Oleron; the larger are the #3 fines claires de Marennes-Oleron.  Note that in France, the larger the oyster, the smaller the identification number attached to it.  Ones (or even zeros) are the largest, the smallest are usually five or six.  Go figure.

Notice the pale green hue of the gills.
Notice the pale green hue.

You can read all about it on the official website of the, Groupement qualité Huîtres Marennes Oléron, who are apparently responsible for setting standards for this sort of thing.  I would rather wolf down a dozen or two of these little beauties.  These taste of fresh seawater with a hint of sea weed and copper and the slightest sweetness.  Absolutely delicious.  Nothing else needed but  a squeeze of lemon, some crusty country bread,  salted butter and a glass of crisp white wine, in this case a Cotes de Gascogne.

6 down, ready for more.
6 down, ready for more.
...and the other half dozen.
…and the other half dozen.

Yes that green is the trimming from the Brussels sprouts that would follow for dinner.  I didn’t have any seaweed to use.

PS if you like sauce mignonette like I do, the recipe:  equal parts red wine and red wine vinegar (a light, fresh red wine is best, and the best red vinegar you can get), season with salt, add a big pinch of coarsely ground black pepper, a spoon full of finely diced shallots,   done.

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1 thought on “Huitres, fines de claires”

  1. All in Seattle know that there are plenty of wonderful oysters around, but there is something about French oysters that is special. Of course, it could just be that one is in France–after all, when its during the season, pretty much nothing beats a glass of muscadet and oysters at the local market or a Sunday morning at the Baron Bouge with a glass of chablis. Your Marenne’s look wonderful!

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