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Mignonette sauce is a vinaigrette which is considered a classic dipping sauce for oysters. Usually spooned onto oysters, this sauce consists of a wine and vinegar reduction that may 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 cilantro. Cracked black or white peppercorns or coarsely ground pepper is always included. For spicier sauces, jalapeño peppers can be added. Although salt is also an addition, it is generally used sparingly, since oysters already have a salty flavor.
Often dry white wine is mixed with vinegar, though French versions may use champagne instead. If wine is not used, white or red wine vinegar or champagne vinegar is always used instead. Wine vinegar may also be combined with the 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, the non-reduced versions of this sauce do not include wine or champagne and instead just use the vinegar.
Reductions simply heat a liquid in order to force evaporation, thus reducing the liquid's volume. Usually, the volume is reduced by half. This both thickens the liquid and gives it a stronger flavor since usually it is mostly the water or pure alcohol content that is evaporating.
Once the reduction is complete, the other ingredients are added, and the sauce is mixed. Though it can remain at room temperature overnight, it is usually served cold. Mignonette sauce can keep for over a month in the refrigerator.
To serve, oysters are shucked with an oyster knife. Since oysters are usually eaten raw, it is extremely important to ensure the oysters are good before consuming them. If their shells are open at all before shucking or they smell strongly of rotten eggs after shucking, the oysters should be thrown away. Shucking oysters involves both prying open the shell and detaching the oyster from the shell by cutting the connecting muscle.
Lemon wedges are usually provided as garnish, and their juice is squeezed onto the oysters before the sauce is added. Then, the sauce is spooned over the top of the oyster. Mignonette sauce can also be served with clams.