Living toward the middle of the country, I have always been wary of the freshness of seafood. This has kept me from purchasing my own oysters. Instead, I have relied on one of the few oyster bars we have in the city for my fixes (which have, sadly, been few and far between). The problem with an oyster bar is their markup. Having inherited a touch of my mom's frugality, the oyster bar is basically a once a year trip. I'm always amazed how quickly costs soar for a night out. I frequently wondered how many oysters I could buy from a seafood distributor and shuck myself for the equivalent of night out at the oyster bar.
Earlier this winter I was directed to a local seafood purveyor (Diana's Seafood) that gets in a wide variety of fresh oysters and I went to check them out. They had numerous east and west coast oysters (Crassostrea virginica, Crassostrea sikamea, Crassostrea gigas) and Irish Flats (Ostrea edulis) with trade names for most.
On my oyster scouting visit to Diana's I tried some Kumamoto (C. Sikamea) and Colville Bay (C. virginica) oysters and was very impressed with the freshness of their wares. This past week after reading Robb Walsh's Sex Death and Oysters, I had to try some charbroiled garlic parmesan oysters which Walsh talks about in the book. I headed back to Diana's to get a couple of 33 count boxes of Standard grade Malpeque oysters which were on sale.
This recipe is based on a recipe from Drago's Seafood Restaurant, located in both Metairie and New Orleans Louisiana.
Charbroiled Garlic Parmesan Oysters
1/4 pound room temperature butter
3 cloves of garlic finely minced
4 Tbl grated parmesan cheese
Fire your charcoal in a chimney starter while you get to work on the garlic butter and oysters. Mix together the softened butter, parmesan and garlic. Shuck your oysters trying to reserve their liquor in the bottom cupped shell.* Place the shucked oysters on an aluminum sheet pan for easy assembly and transport. Add a dollop of the butter to each oyster and take them to your grill.
Once all of your charcoal has lit, spread your coals evenly in your grill and place the oysters on the grate directly over the hot coals. Depending on the distance from the coals, the oysters will take three to five minutes to cook. You want to remove the oysters once the gills have curled and they have charred a little around the outside of the shell. Don't be alarmed if they flare up! The oysters will bubble and spit and some butter will fall on the coals, this is normal. Actually, it's desirable as a little extra char adds flavour to these beauties.
*I don't recommend using a premium oyster (save them for eating raw on the half shell). A Gulf Coast C. virginica is perfect here because they are relatively cheap, plump and large enough to still give you a decent sized finished product. The oysters will shrink a lot while cooking, so, if you're going to shuck 'em, make it worth your while!
Here are some shots of the Standard Malpeques I did over the weekend, they were small and many were tough to shuck, but, man were they good!