Raw oysters are great, but try grilling/broiling with spinach, garlic & Parmesan or Chorizo & cheddar. Don’t like raw oysters? Try these recipes.
As a kid, I spent a significant part of my summers down in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We loved slow-living on the bay, fun times with family and good friends, and the delicious Gulf Seafood. Shrimp, stuffed flounder, and crabs were fantastic, but my younger brother and I were HUGE fans of raw oysters. One summer, during a side trip to New Orleans, my parents couldn’t get the trays of raw oysters to our table fast enough. My favorite dinner as a ‘grown up’? A wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese accompanied by at least one dozen oysters with lemon, horseradish and hot sauce. Mmmmmmm!
While not everyone appreciates the slimy texture of oysters like I do, it is possible to prepare oysters that everyone will enjoy. There is something primitive about cracking open the shells. Throw a few on the grill and enjoy.
Where to buy oysters?
We found a local grocery store that often carries oysters. I definitely recommend that you call ahead and order in advance. You don’t want to prepare a menu only to find out oysters are not available. Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience on this point.
The guys at our fish counter always give us a few extra. They are typically priced by the dozen and usually one or two of the oysters are not good (won’t open or they are stinky when you open them). Request that they pack the the oyster in a bag on ice. Once you arrive home, be sure to open the bag when you place them in the refrigerator so the oysters can breath.
The old myth of ‘R’ months.
There is an old myth that specifies the best time to eat oysters is during months that contain an ‘R’ (e.g. September through April) . This is related to the potential for increased bacterial growth in the water during the warm summer months. Oysters are filter feeders that have the potential to concentrate microorganisms or related toxins. While levels of certain naturally occurring marine bacteria (e.g Vibrio) are higher in coastal waters during warm weather months, they may still be present during colder months. Most consumers are not susceptible to infection by Vibrio . However, individuals with certain illnesses or health conditions should only eat molluscan shellfish that is cooked. Grilling is the perfect way to reduce risk of bacterial contamination regardless of the month. Cooking oysters with heat can kill harmful bacteria and viruses. While mussels, clams, and oysters can be safe to eat year-round if prepared properly, it is also important to ensure that they are harvested legally to ensure a sustainable supply.
Oyster preparation tips and tools.
Writing with many years of oyster eating experience, I have learned a few lessons. Some easier than others. One of the best tips was to clean the the oysters and place them in the freezer for 10-20 minutes just before ‘shucking’ or opening. This works really well. All the strong parts of the oyster holding the shells together contract. If you stick an oyster shucker knife where the shells are connected, they are much easier to pry apart after exposure to freezing temperatures. In addition to a good shucker, I also recommend a good pair of penetration-resistant gloves. Those oysters are always shifting, even when you think you have a good grip on them with a solidly placed kitchen towel. Be safe!
Grilled oyster recipes and dinner.
My husband hated raw oysters. However, during a trip to Gulf Shores , he discovered he could enjoy oysters after sampling grilled oysters at several restaurants. Oysters were readily available and so began our quest to mimic and finally create our own grilled oyster recipes.
Currently, my family has two favorite grilled oyster recipes. The first recipe is to top the oysters with chorizo, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese before grilling. The second recipe uses garlic, spinach, and Parmesan. The possibilities are endless. Chop, top, grill and eat. Modify as desired. Use any fresh herbs or vegetables you might have available in your garden. As I am writing, I think I need to try a summer Caprese versions. Basil, tomato, garlic, and fresh mozzarella.
I love to use a kitchen chopper to help with slicing and dicing of all of the ingredients. I precook chorizo or any other meat. Other than that, we throw veggies and cheese on the oysters and barbecue until the cheese is very well melted. Oysters should be cooked thoroughly at this point. Do not overcook or the oysters will become dried out and tough. I threw breadcrumbs on top of the garlic, spinach, and Parmesan topped oysters. There was too much moisture for the crumbs to brown. Therefore, I recommend browning the breadcrumbs in advance so they are crispier and soak up the moisture.
Serving a grilled oyster meal
I have only one oyster grill pan to date. This was used for the chorizo jalapeno cheddar oysters I used a disposable aluminum pizza tray filled with coarse sea salt. ‘Plan B’ was very practical and looked great. Just make sure the trays fit on your grill before you load them up with the oysters.
Oysters can be served as an appetizer. I typically serve them alongside a salad for a perfect meal. On this particular occasion I was able to prepare a snap pea sprout salad with red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and carrots from the garden. I splashed the salad with a simple vinaigrette dressing.
Hope you grill a few oysters and help someone else discover the delicious flavor of oysters.