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Should You Really Not Eat Oysters in Months Without an 'R'?

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You've probably heard the food-world adage about how we shouldn’t consume oysters during months that don’t contain the letter 'R.' But does 'R' really stand for risk?

Technically, yes. Although, when it comes to eating commercially farmed oysters served in restaurants and sold in supermarkets, this old mnemonic can go out the window.

The idea of not eating oysters during months without an 'R' comes from the fact that the summer months are the prime breeding time for "red tides," or large blooms of algae that grow along the coast and have the tendency to spread toxins that can be absorbed by shellfish, including oysters. This is especially an issue for places with warm water temperatures, and eating locally raised seafood raises your risk of ingesting the toxins.

That said, commercially harvested seafood—which makes up a majority of the seafood sold in restaurants and supermarkets—is strictly regulated by U.S. law, which ensures it is safe to consume. Many restaurants often increase the size of their safety net by serving commercial oysters from cold-water climates during the months of May, June, July, and August.

So, while we wouldn’t recommend digging up your own oysters off the coast of Florida for a mid-summer backyard bake, there’s no reason to fear the product sold in stores or served in restaurants within U.S. borders any month of year, 'R' or no 'R.' But in case you prefer to play it safe, September is just around the corner.

A version of this article ran in 2013.

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The Simple Way to Reheat Your French Fries and Not Have Them Turn Into a Soggy Mess
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Some restaurant dishes are made to be doggy-bagged and reheated in the microwave the next day. Not French fries: The more crispy and delectable they are when they first arrive on your table, the more of a soggy disappointment they’ll be when you try to revive them at home. But as The Kitchn recently shared, there’s a secret to making leftover fries you’ll actually enjoy eating.

The key is to avoid the microwave altogether. Much of the appeal of fries comes from their crunchy, golden-brown exterior and their creamy potato center. This texture contrast is achieved by deep-frying, and all it takes is a few rotations around a microwave to melt it away. As the fries heat up, they create moisture, transforming all those lovely crispy parts into a flabby mess.

If you want your fries to maintain their crunch, you need to recreate the conditions they were cooked in initially. Set a large pan filled with about 2 tablespoons of oil for every 1 cup of fries you want to cook over medium-high heat. When you see the oil start to shimmer, add the fries in a single layer. After about a minute, flip them over and allow them to cook for half a minute to a minute longer.

By heating up fries with oil in a skillet, you produce something called the Maillard Reaction: This happens when high heat transforms proteins and sugars in food, creating the browning effect that gives fried foods their sought-after color, texture, and taste.

After your fries are nice and crisp, pull them out of the pan with tongs or a spatula, set them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil, and sprinkle them with salt. Now all you need is a perfect burger to feel like you’re eating a restaurant-quality meal at home.

[h/t The Kitchn]

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toyohara, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped)
Meet Japan's Original (Not-so-Fresh) Form of Sushi, 'Funazushi'
toyohara, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped)
toyohara, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped)

When it comes to sushi, fresh is usually best. Most of the sushi we eat in America is haya-nare, which involves raw seafood and vinegared rice. But in Japan, there's an older form of sushi—said to be the original form—called funazushi. It's made from fermented carp sourced from one particular place, Lake Biwa, and takes about three years to produce from start to finish. The salt it's cured with keeps the bad bacteria at bay, and the result is said to taste like a fish version of prosciutto. Great Big Story recently caught up with Mariko Kitamura, the 18th generation to run her family’s shop in Takashima City, where she's one of the very few people left producing funazushi. You can learn more about the process behind the delicacy, and about Kitamura, in the video below.

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