Thursday, July 10, 2014

Oysters On The Grill

As summer gets down to its dirty work, it's now officially HOT.  The extremely warm temperatures make cooking inside a bear, so many choose to take the heat out of the kitchen and head for the grilling sanctity of the great outdoors.  For many of us, using the grill means hotdogs, burgers, chicken, or fish.  In the case of seafood, the usual items consist of tuna, salmon, swordfish, mahi, and shrimp, but there are other healthy seafood options readily available that do not get the consideration they deserve.  One of those items is oysters.

I know oysterphiles everywhere are rolling their eyes in disgust at the thought of cooking a perfectly delicious raw oyster but hear me out.  Grilled oysters can be a delightful mouthful of flavor and an exciting detour onto a grilling path less traveled.  The best part is that they are simple to prepare and will have your dinner guests marveling at your culinary competence.  You can find many different grilled oyster recipes online, but below is a simple yet tasty one courtesy of Black's Bar and Kitchen.

First, select large size oysters low in salinity with deep cups.  Local oysters fit the bill perfectly.  I, like many, love salty oysters, but before scoffing at buying low salinity oysters remember that cooking oysters brings out their salinity, so there is no need to buy really salty oysters for this preparation.  You can purchase oysters from BlackSalt Fish Market and they will shuck them for you, or you can buy them live and shuck them yourself.  Here's a helpful video if you are of the daring variety.  

Next, you want to begin your preparation.  Pull butter from the fridge and let it sit to soften at room temperature.  You can go ahead and light the grill now or wait, either way you want it hot before putting the oysters on.  

In a sauce pan, sweat finely chopped garlic and shallots in oil.  Right before they begin to brown toss into the pan 2 tsp each of smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, 1tsp lime zest, 1 tblsp parsley.  You can alter the amounts to taste, I usually eyeball everything any way.  It always helps if you taste as you go along.  You want to create a paste with this mixture.  After it sits for a couple of minutes on medium heat you want to transfer your spice paste to the softened butter.  You are essentially creating a compound butter.  Whip the butter and spice paste together until the mixture is fully incorporated.  You can use a mixer, fork, or spatula to achieve this.  Note, it's much easier when the butter is soft, so you might want to pull it out of the fridge rather early.  

Now all you have to do is place a dollop of your compound butter on each shucked oyster and then transfer each oyster to the hot grill, shell side down of course.  The oysters will cook in 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your preference.  Those of you who want your oysters a little under and still soft and viscous I recommend 2-3 minutes.  For those of you looking for a firmer mouthfeel experience, I recommend 5 minutes or more.  The oysters will be extremely hot, so remove them with tongs and let them cool for a few minutes before serving.  Adding toasted seasoned breadcrumbs or crumbled cornbread once the oysters come off the grill is a nice touch and adds an appetizing finishing crunch.  

That's it.  It's really that simple.  Grilling oysters is a great way to mix it up and get rid of the monotony that outdoor cooking can become.  I recommend varieties such Barren Islands, Chincoteagues, Warshores, Broadwaters, Chesapeake Golds, and Sewansecotts to grill.  You can call ahead to BlackSalt Fish Market to make sure that they are on hand for you to purchase.  Happy grilling!