Every dinner needs a starch and a vegetable for completeness. Applying the dinner principle to a meal of steamed oysters injects your spread with an infusion of fresh side dish ideas. Add a few classics like corn on the cob or smoked sausage to the new entries and you'll have a complete oyster meal to entertain your guests and their palates.
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Grains often go overlooked as an accompaniment to steamed oysters, but they make a good fit if you tie them to the meal with fish fumet. Cooking with fish fumet, a concentrated broth made from simmering fish and seafood with mirepoix and aromatics, infuses grains with pure seafood essence and imparts a flavor redolent of the oysters. Buckwheat groats, bulgur and soft wheat berries are a few grains that when cooked in fumet will fit comfortably alongside steamed oysters and contribute a contrasting toothiness with their texture.
Crusty, crisp breads effectively contrast the tenderness of steamed oysters and make a fitting delivery system from platter to palate. Breads with dense crumb absorb the precious oyster juices, or liquor, like a sponge, flavoring it from the outside in. Numerous Italian and French breads have the crumb coupled with the crust oysters need. Friselle, casareccio and genzano, from Italy, and baguette, boule and fougasse from France, have the best crumb-to-crust ratio for oysters. You don't, however, need to have access to world breads to pick up a good complementary loaf at your bakery if you follow a few simple rules: always buy fresh and check for a tight crumb and a chewy or crisp crust. Slice and toast bread slices and let them cool to room temperature before serving.
Greens have a pleasant bitterness that frames the sea-like sweetness of oysters, nudging it to the forefront against a backdrop of earthiness. Just about any green works with oysters as long as it is fresh. Collard, mustard and turnip greens are the most abundant and should always have a place on the oyster table; redbor, red Russian and kamome kale vary the texture of collard greens and add striking visual appeal to the whole meal. Braise greens in stock or for a smokiness that elevates and complements the taste of steamed oysters, cook them in water until softened but still slightly firm and finish them on the grill.
If you want a host of oyster sides that can't fail, deconstruct a classic seafood boil. Seafood boils have a variety of vegetables with a track record of seafood success, and you can select the side dishes that fit your mood. Seafood boils typically include corn on the cob, new potatoes, coleslaw, sausage and mushrooms.