What’s mignonette sauce?

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Mignonette sauce is a classic dipping sauce for oysters made from a wine and vinegar reduction seasoned with herbs and spices, including cracked pepper. It can be stored for over a month and is usually served cold. Lemon slices are often served with it, and it can also be used with clams.

Mignonette sauce is a vinaigrette that is considered a classic dipping sauce for oysters. Usually spread over oysters, this sauce consists of a wine and vinegar reduction that can be seasoned with herbs and spices. The term mignonette refers to the cracked pepper always used in this sauce rather than the sauce itself.

Seasonings often added to mignonette sauce include shallots and occasionally white pepper or coriander. Cracked black or white peppercorns or coarsely ground pepper are always included. For hotter sauces, jalapeño peppers can be added. While salt is also an addition, it’s generally used sparingly, as oysters already taste salty.

Often dry white wine is mixed with vinegar, although French versions may use champagne instead. If wine is not used, white or red wine vinegar or champagne vinegar is always used. Wine vinegar can also be combined with dry white wine.

Although the wine vinegar mixture is almost always placed in a pan and reduced, this sauce can be made without reducing the wine. The alcohol content that is burned off in the reduction process, however, remains in the non-reduced version of mignonette sauce. Usually, however, unreduced versions of this sauce don’t include wine or champagne and instead use only vinegar.

Reductions simply heat a liquid to force evaporation, thereby reducing the volume of the liquid. Usually, the volume is reduced by half. This thickens the liquid and gives it a stronger flavor since it is usually mostly the water or pure alcohol content that is evaporating.

Once the reduction is complete, the other ingredients are added and the sauce is blended. Although it can sit at room temperature overnight, it is usually served cold. The mignonette sauce can be stored for over a month in the refrigerator.

To serve, the oysters are shucked with an oyster knife. Since oysters are usually eaten raw, it is extremely important to make sure the oysters are good before consuming them. If their shells are opened before shucking or smell strongly of rotten eggs after shucking, the oysters should be thrown away. Oyster shucking involves both prying open the shell and removing the oyster from the shell by cutting the connecting muscle.

Lemon slices are usually given as a side dish and their juice is squeezed over the oysters before adding the sauce. Then, the sauce is spooned over the top of the oyster. Mignonette sauce can also be served with clams.

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