To many Richmonders, oysters are those squishy, salty things that occasionally show up in stuffing at the Thanksgiving table. But any coastal dweller will tell you that the best way to enjoy an oyster is freshly roasted and shucked on a crisp fall night. So this month, put away the Brunswick stew recipe and try an oyster roast instead.
Belle asked Kelly Taylor, a Chesapeake Bay oyster farmer and owner of 1607 Oyster Co., for pointers on throwing the perfect, simple oyster roast and look like a natural doing it.
Where and how to buy oysters: Buy them fresh the day of the roast, in the shell, and look for oysters with closed shells only. Taylor recommends P.T. Hastings on Parham Road; another good source is The Yellow Umbrella in Westhampton.
Supplies you’ll need: Shucking knives, gloves, lots and lots of paper towels, cocktail sauce, butter, vinegar, saltine crackers, lots of beer and good music.
Start off the night: Serve oyster shooters and oysters Rockefeller to your guests as they arrive (recipes below).
Roast oysters the simple way: Lay oysters (still in the shell) on top of a gas or charcoal grill and place a wet burlap sack on top of them. Cook on medium heat until shells open, about 10 minutes. Shuck and eat oysters immediately.
Serve with saltines and bowls of melted butter, vinegar, cocktail and hot sauce for dipping. Outdoor tables spread with newspapers are best, especially on chilly nights. Have buckets on hand for empty shells. Add more oysters to the grill if necessary, but make sure to re-soak the burlap each time.
What to serve with oysters: To drink — beer, whiskey, and white wine all pair well. To eat — oyster fanatics will need only crackers, but for any oyster-phobic guests you can serve sausage, steak, biscuits or corn bread.
Oyster shooter: Place shucked, raw oyster in shot glass. Add desired amount of vodka, a dash each of cocktail sauce, hot sauce, and Worcestershire. Top with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Oysters Rockefeller: Shuck raw oysters and reserve in shells along with any liquor (the briny liquid inside the shell). Add bacon crumbles, chopped spinach, chopped onion, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, hot sauce, salt, bread crumbs, and parsley to taste (this isn’t an exact science, so use any combination of fixings or come up with your own). Put the half shells on a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese bubbles.
This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Belle magazine.