What’s better than barbecued oysters, Sonoma Chardonnay and a West Coast Sunset? Not much. The great thing about Pacific oysters is that they really don’t have an off-season (months without R’s) like the east coast oysters. This is because the water stays colder and in the case of Drake’s Bay, Tomales Bay, Point Reyes, Washington state etc, they can actually lower the oysters into deeper, colder water when the warm, early Fall months hit the West Coast. So when the Altantic oysters get milky these osyters are still briny and amazing.
That said, “sans-R” months where I’m from in South Carolina mean BBQ’d oysters. And although, “raw, on the half” is my favorite way to eat oysters, barbecued oysters are not be missed. That’s why I was excited to barbecue these Drake’s Bay oysters on the houseboat in Sausalito. As you can see, these babies are big. It takes a brave soul to sidle up to a plate of these big’uns at a raw bar. Enter at you’re own peril, in other words. However, these cooked oysters shrink up nicely when you cook them in the shell, which makes them much more manageable going down.
Smoked Barbecued Oysters with Mignonette Sauce
No mysteries here for this technique. Gather a dozen or so large, raw oysters and carefully shuck them to retain as much of the oyster liquor (liquid) as you can. Set up a grill for indirect cooking giving you a hot and cool zone (charcoal: coals on one side; gas: light one side of the grill, duh). Soak some of your favorite hardwood chips in warm water just as you light the grill so they’ll be ready when you need them.
Place the oysters close together on the cold side of the grill: Ever.So.Gently. We don’t want to lose any of that liquor! Drizzle some of your favorite BBQ sauce on each oyster with a spoon or a silicone brush. Add a handful of your soaked chips to the hot coals, cover, and let the briny, smoky magic happen. These took roughly 10 minutes for medium well-ish oysters. Your mileage may vary. You’re looking for a little shrinkage while still leaving some of that delicious BBQ-y, briney nectar still in the shell. I eat them whole, but some people prefer to use a fork. I also prefer the flinty snap of a Chalk Hill Chardonnay with this dish, but a cold IPA would go just as well.
No rocket science here. Minced shallot (brunoised, if you got that swagger like Escoffier) goes into a glass mixing bowl with a light vinegar (champagne, rice wine etc), pinches of sugar, salt and cracked black pepper (to taste) are added then whisked. Serve room temp with your Q’ued bivalved mollusks. If you have any stories from Point Reyes or Hog Island, let me know!
If you’re going to be in Sonoma, and you need put some pre-wine tasting grub in your belly, you should definitely swing by the Fremont Diner. Located conveniently on Fremont St, the Fremont Diner boasts a barrel full of stick-to-your-ribs country favorites that will have you reminiscing about Sunday Dinners at Grandma’s. Pictured above is the “whole hog” sandwich -which as a native of South Carolina, makes me happy to see – and the open-faced brisket sandwich. Both were juicy, fatty and delicious and the extra strong sweet tea really complemented both. The brisket had an intense smoke ring and was certainly delicious, but I would have like a little more “burnt end” (that’s not much of complaint though). Fremont also has breakfast with lip smacking favorites like bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy, country ham, brisket and potatoes etc., although I have yet to try it. The best part is sitting outside in the sun at the communal picnic tables drinking sweet tea and cleansing your palate with the house made pickles. The Fremont Diner is located at 2660 Fremont Drive in Sonoma and they don’t do dinner so get there early. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure diner? Let us know!