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!
Oysters on the Half Shell at J’s Oyster in Portland Maine.
When you think of New England you think cold weather, cold water,
cold interesting people and fresh, delicious seafood. That’s why when I was recently in Portland ME, I naturally found myself at a mother shuckers paradise of bi-valve heaven: J’s Oyster. At J’s, simplicity is the rule. You want oysters? You get an icy plate with a dozen, shucked, a plastic ramekin of cocktail sauce, wedge of lemon and little teeny plastic fork. Simple. Easy. No mignonette or silverware picks or fancypants accouterments to get in your way of briny oyster goodness. Beers are cold, steamers are hot (and ridiculously good on a cold Maine day) and the prices are very reasonable for a creek-side fish shack. Next time your Down East and looking for some wicked good shellfish, give J’s a try.
As summer comes to a close (and really heats up here in SF), we’re making a lot more cold lunches to beat the heat. One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten was the shrimp salad sandwich at the 17th Street Deli in Wilmington NC. My approximation is above, and I sincerely hope I have done it justice. I don’t know the real recipe, but this is my best guess. I used shrimp (boiled in salted water with a halved lemon), a little mayo, a little sour cream, shallot, carrot, tarragon and fresh parsley. My verdict on this is: close, but no cigar. The reason: creek shrimp.
If you’ve never been to the Carolinas then you may not know about the best shrimp in the whole wide world: the creek shrimp. These succulent little beauties live in the tidal salt marshes (creeks) of the southeast coast. They can get pretty large (5-8 cm), but the ones you want are the smaller (2-4 cm) ones. These shrimp are sweet, with a fresh briny smell and have a texture that gives just enough when you eat them. You can find whole creek shrimp at most any local fishmonger or literally on the side of the road in coastal Carolina beach towns for less than 2 bucks per pound. They’re great to fry, boil for peel-n-eat, or for a delicious summer shrimp salad sandwich. Ever had creek shrimp? Let us know how you serve them!
If you’ve ever been to New England then you know that there is no finer food than the humble lobster roll. So elegant in it’s simplicity, this former “poor people food” is now de riguer on any upscale “fish shack’s” menu. Butter grilled bun and hot, fresh succulent lobster- end of story. Oh, there are certainly those in the cold, lobster salad roll camp, but the kind of person who pairs mayonnaise with lobster is probably the person asking for extra lemon-poppy-seed-remolade-chipotle-pepper-vinaigrette-aioli for their triple play grand slam appetizer fiesta at the the local Chilis-Too-Go.
Lobster. Mayonnaise. Never the two shall twain. It’s just not to be done. Period. But I digress a bit.
This tasty hot, buttery good, lobster roll is from The Monkey Farm in Old Saybrook CT. This is exactly how you want to get a lobster roll: hot (did I mention hot?), butter grilled bun, crispy fries and side of slaw and under $15. Honestly, the fries and slaw are really just garnish – so slather some mayo and malt-vinegar on those Sysco fries!
Two things: NEVER pay more than $15 for a lobster roll unless Thomas Keller and Barbara Lynch make it table side – at your kitchen table. Then you can pay up to $25 and that’s only if Barbara Lynch BYOB’s. It blows my mind - literally figuratively – out of my skull, when I see lobster rolls in New England for twenty plus dollars. Lobsters are like 8 bucks a pound and no matter how much CIA training you’ve had or how much thermidor-champagne-cognac-meuniere-beurre-blanc-sauce you drown that poor red bastard in, it’s still not worth $25. Ever.
The second thing is: don’t buy lobster more than 100 miles from the source. There’s not much sadder than the bucket of tired, road weary crustaceans slowly dying of fatigue in a tank marked ”Live Maine Lobsters” at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Keep on walking down to the the Dungeness crab tank (and grab some salty pig parts from Boccalone while you’re at it). You’ll thank me later.
Have good lobster roll joint? Let us know! We also like Roy Moore’s in Rockport MA. It’s BYOB and 8-10 bucks a pop for a roll made from losters boiled in freakin’ seawater.