I couldn’t resist the Westport Aquaculture oysters in the seafood case at Whole Foods Market Fairfield yesterday. We’d stopped in on the way home from the beach and found some local corn from Mitchell Farms and Farmer’s Cow milk to help round out a veggie-heavy dinner to be made from our weekly CSA share from Sport Hill Farm. Our trip to the seafood counter was supposed to be for sea scallops only, from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified fishery. But my husband was leaving for a 10-day business trip to California and I wanted to give him a special send off. Our half dozen Blue Point oyster order was neatly wrapped and labeled in a net and off we went to prepare the feast.
Raw or cooked was the question on the way home in the car. I grew up near the waters of Long Island Sound and spent summers fishing and clamming with my family during the summer months. I remember cooking clams and oysters on the grill and how easy it was and wanted to relive that food memory. I did not, however, want to revisit the memory of my father drilling the right and wrong ways to shuck a bivalve into us, so I figured the best way was to steam them open. My husband, our grill master, liked that idea.
We had lots of food to grill – summer squash, cauliflower florets, and sweet Cipollini onions from our CSA, heirloom Stupice tomatoes from the backyard garden, scallops skewered on rosemary stalks clipped from our raised herb bed, and halved and pitted peaches from Rose’s Berry Farm that we’d drizzled with Red Bee wildflower honey. The oysters would go on last so I had time to soak them. Bivalve mollusks benefit from sitting refrigerated in clean, cold water just before serving raw or cooking because they’ll filter out any sand. Just be sure to give them a good scrubbing first to remove any loose sand, barnacles and other sea life that might be attached to them. Discard any that are open, a sure sign they’re dead. And don’t let them soak too long or the fresh water cycling through them (they naturally do this as filter feeders) will dilute their flavor.
How to grill oysters: Lay them trough side down (the deep cupped part of the shell) on the grill in order to retain their juices. Shut the grill and lift after 5 or 6 minutes so see if any have popped open. The minute the first one opens, remove them all from the grill to a serving plate. Cooking times will vary according to the grill temperature and the size and temperature of the oysters. Remove cooked oysters carefully to prevent spilling their juices. If they’re too tippy, fill a bowl with kosher salt and snuggle them into it.
At the table, my husband wrestled the oysters open the rest of the way with his bare hands, detaching the upper from the lower shell at the hinge. I hadn’t gotten around to making the mignonette sauce, so warm butter had to do as a sauce, which of course pooled on top of the abundant natural juices. My husband and sons ate them with gusto, urging me on as they declared how delicious they were. I was too busy steaming corn and putting out the wine and missed them entirely. We’ll have to buy more next time.
To learn more about Westport Aquaculture and Whole Foods Markets’ commitment to sustainable seafood, please read our sustainable seafood post and watch the video below.