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Grilled Fresh Pacific Northwest Oysters

It's spring in the Northwest,

and local fresh oysters in the shell are readily available, and fairly affordable at about $5.00 a dozen. It's perfect weather for grilling oysters and it's a fun and easy way to enjoy them. You want to get the freshest possible oysters in the shell, and it's crucial for them to be alive. If the shells are open, and they don't close when you tap them, don't use the oysters. It's dangerous to use an oyster that isn't absolutely fresh. Grilling oysters on a barbeque or charcoal grill essentially poaches the oysters in their shells; when they're cooked through (five or six minutes or so on a hot grill) the shells pop open, so it's very easy to know when they're done. When I say "open, " I mean that a definite crack appears, one that wasn't there before.

The basic method is simple:

  1. Start the fire/heat the grill.
  2. Place the oysters (having made sure that they're all tightly closed and fresh) flat-side down on the grill.
  3. When the oysters pop open (you'll hear them pop) after five or six minutes, remove them from the grill right away; they'll turn into rubbery lumps if they overcook.
  4. Transfer the cooked oysters, carefully, to a platter, trying not to spill the juice.
  5. Loosen the flat "top," and season the oyster with whatever seasoning you happen to favor (the options are almost endless). A little melted butter and lemon juice, or tabasco, goes a long way.
  6. Any oysters that don't open on their own while cooking are not safe to eat; discard them where neither people nor pets will eat them by mistake.

The possibilities for seasoning grilled oysters is just about endless. The most basic version is to add a little lemon juice and a bit of melted butter. That simple recipe can be enhanced with garlic, or a little tabasco, or fresh herbed butter, or a white-wine sauce, or a little melted cheese . . .

I generally figure five or six oysters per person, but if you've got an oyster fan, you might think in terms of a dozen. Keep in mind that you can cook a dozen, and prepare them to serve, while a second dozen is grilling. For some ideas, and a number of mouth-watering recipes, you can try the basic hot sauce and lemon-butter, or add a little Worcestershire sauce, a spicy Tarragon butter, or Corn Jalapeño Salsita.

 

If you're grilling anyway, there's no reason not to add a few ears of corn to the grill. Some oysters, some grilled corn on the cob, a loaf of good French bread, maybe some potato salad, and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, or a Washington Chardonnay or a six pack of an IPA craft brew, and you've a got a gourmet meal that's simple, yummy, and exceedingly portable.

Image Credit: Digital Medievalist