Sea & Spice: A Mignonette Experiment

I prefer my oysters naked, but when I am in the mood to dress them up in a little somethin'-something', my go-to condiment is the classic mignonette sauce.

Mignonette sauce is a simple relish that is composed of red wine vinegar, shallots, and peppercorn. Its tangy, tart, and peppery taste can help add a great kick to the oysters, as long as you don't add too much. It can quickly overpower your oyster and tastebuds. Many restaurants serve their mignonettes with their own special twist (e.g., using pink peppercorns instead of black peppercorns or adding yuzu zest.)

Discovering Prometheus Springs

For a long time, I've had the desire to develop my own special mignonette sauce. So when I discovered Prometheus Springs (now gone, sadly), a one-of-a-kind collection of spicy and sweet Capsaicin elixirs, the idea of using it as my "secret ingredient" instantly popped up. First of all, I love these beverages. I discovered them at the LUCKYRICE Night Market—I had one shot of the Lychee Wasabi and was instantly hooked. It  first tastes sweet, but then blazes down your throat like a good hot sauce. Capsaicins are known to have medicinal properties that help improve and maintain your well being. So in that aspect, they are much like oysters, which contain a burst of vital minerals and omega 3 fatty acids.

I first purchased a case of 12 bottles of Prometheus Springs from their website to start. Then through a series of random Facebook posts and emails, I met up with co-founder Rahul Panchal at Ippudo, over some savory pork buns and Shishito peppers to talk shop. He, a fellow food lover and masterful cook, recommended using the Pomegranate Black Pepper and Lemon Ginger flavors. I decided to do extra due diligence and experiment with them all. So off I went!

Wait a minute... what about the oysters?


i love blue sea

I had the very good fortune of being in touch with Martin Reed, the founder of i love blue sea (sold to Vital Choice) an environmentally-conscious purveyor of sustainable seafoods) during the same week when I was toying with the mignonette idea. As part of a Memorial Day weekend "fun pack," i love blue sea shipped to me six dozen beautiful West Coast gems (thanks again Martin!!!). They arrived at my apartment doorstep in a medium-sized FedEx box padded with chilled gel packs. Each of the six oyster types were kept in their own bright, yellow mesh bag and labeled with a laminated harvest tag.

All six varieties are shown above, arranged more or less by size. I actually only decided to use two dozen for the mignonette experiment. I felt it sufficient and wanted to share the rest of the goods with some friends over the holiday weekend. Yes, I know. How unusually generous of me, right? :)

Shucking Makes Perfect

The first step was to shuck all of the oysters. This wasn't too daunting as I had shucked the four dozen a couple days earlier. As with anything in life, practice makes perfect. It also helped that these sturdy West Coasters were a breeze to open. I recently learned from David George Gordon (a.k.a. The Bug Chef) that shucking West Coast oysters can be slightly different than shucking East Coast oysters. When it's too difficult to go through the hinge, you can slide the knife over to the side. I had no trouble opening my batch through the hinge, but if they are too "craggy," the alternative method may prove to be better.

If you're interested in learning how to shuck, here is a collection of videos on the subject that can help you out!

The next step was to make the mignonette sauces. I added just a few teaspoons of red wine vinegar to about a cup of Prometheus Springs. Then I sliced up a small shallot very thinly and mixed them in. Lastly, I crushed some pink peppercorns into the mix. I tried to maintain the Prometheus Springs as the most prominent ingredient in order to evaluate its particular effect on the oysters. Of course, the ratios can be adjusted to make it more of a classic mignonette rather than a Prometheus-based one.

Finally, the last step was to mix and match the oysters with the different mignonettes. Before we begin, I want to mention that all of the oysters that I received from i love blue sea were gorgeous! Leave it to the West Coast to excel in aesthetics. I photographed each variety in many ways, but felt that the fork helped give a little more context to the oysters' sizes. For the tasting, I tried one oyster on its own (to "calibrate" my palette) and then tried the remaining two or three with different Prometheus mignonettes. Below are my notes from the pairing:

Kusshi from Deep Bay, British Columbia

Plain: Petite, plump, and smoothly salty. They had a lovely creamy texture and cucumber flavor.

With Pomegranate Black Pepper: Positive! It adds a nice dash of sweetness that compliments the salty flavors well.

With Lemon Ginger: Positive! The lemony tang brings out the cucumber taste, while the ginger keeps the finish clean.

With Lychee Wasabi: Neutral.


Kumamoto from Humboldt Bay, California

Plain: Small, soft, semi-briny, earthy, and slightly sweet.

With Pomegranate Black Pepper: Positive! The fruitiness of the mignonette brings out a distinctive smokiness in the oyster, which is further complimented by the peppery heat.

With Lemon Ginger: Neutral.

With Lychee Wasabi: Neutral.


Cortes Island from Deep Bay, British Columbia

Plain: Medium salinity, earthy undertones, and mineral finish.

With Pomegranate Black Pepper: Negative. It was a valiant effort, but the sweet and earthy flavors do not harmonize well.

With Lemon Ginger: Neutral.

With Citrus Cayenne: Negative. For some reason, it brought out a pungent, fishy taste in the oyster.

Marin Miyagi from Tomales Bay, California

Plain: High salinity, sweet with complex fruity undertones, ultra creamy, and metallic finish. My favorite of the batch!

With Pomegranate Black Pepper: Neutral. It brings out the metallic tang--which can be good/bad.

With Lemon Ginger: Neutral.

With Lychee Wasabi: Neutral.

What is clear here is that the Marin Miyagi stands very strong on its own. No need for mignonette whatsoever!

Buckley Bay from Baynes Sound, British Columbia

Plain: Large, meaty, melon and grassy flavors, medium salinity, metallic finish.

With Pomegranate Black Pepper: Positive! It is nicely balanced, refreshing, and echoes with sweetness.

With Lemon Ginger: Positive! The mignonette brings out the oyster's more subtle, earthy undertones. Hints of caramelized onions came into mind.

With Spicy Pear: Negative. Pear and metallic flavors do not go well together.

Steamboat Island from Puget Sound, Washington

Plain: Large, mild (to zero) salinity, vegetal flavors, very creamy.

With Pomegranate Black Pepper: Neutral.

With Lemon Ginger: Positive! The ginger helps to clean up the finishing flavors on the palette, and makes it a bit more refreshing.

With Mango Chili: Neutral.

Oyster & Mignonette Experiment Conclusions

As I enjoyed tasting the different mignonettes with the oysters, I did notice a consistent flaw to my formula. The way that Prometheus Springs was created makes the heat hit your palette last. The delayed spiciness forces the fruitiness to compete with the tart vinegar, where in many cases, the vinegar wins. Furthermore, the heat also overpower some of the delicate finishing flavors the oysters. I'd be curious to try and rebalance the recipe to see if these affect can be mitigated.

All in all, my final conclusion is that more experimentation needs to be done!

The Pomegranate Black Pepper is the winning Prometheus Springs thus far, but I still see great potential in the Lemon Ginger and Mango Chili.

The pairings with the Kusshi and Kumamoto were the most successful.

In some cases, like that of the Marin Miyagi, the mignonette isn't necessary

I'd be interested to conduct my next one with both East and West coast oysters.