Oysters…in most people they ellicit one of two responses, love them or ick! I fell madly in love with my first Oyster in Charleston, SC at a restaurant called Bowen’s Island, where all-you-can-eat steamed oysters are served by the shovelful. If you’re in Charleston, the directions are easy: drive towards Folly Beach and turn right on the road right after the Boat. (Now if you have ever driven from downtown Charleston to Folly Beach, you know about the boat perched on the side of the road.) After turning right, you follow the road to the end where you will find a low wooden building surrounded by huge piles of oyster shells.
Of course, now that we live in Nashville our opportunities for fresh oysters to throw on a grill are a little more slim. So imagine our delight when we found a fire pit in the backyard of a rental house in Florida. A few weeks ago, H and I joined nine other friends for a week of beach bumming and general relaxation in Florida. We rented a house about a block from the beach with a pool in the backyard…and of course, the previously mentioned fire pit. Within seconds of stepping into the backyard, H and I both noticed the fire pit and with that we both started strategizing how we were going to replicate the Bowen’s Island oysters on our assigned dinner night. The fire pit demanded oysters and we happily planned to oblige.
Of course, roasting the oysters would not be the hard part, but seeing as it was July, we were both a little worried about finding fresh, local oysters in the shell. At Bowen’s Island, the degree to which the oysters were cooked varied greatly. Some were smokey and well done, while others were practically raw. I love them either way, but since it was not oyster time of year, I was a little worried about someone getting sick. (Many believe that oysters should only be consumed raw in months with an R, so basically anytime except between May and August.) The last thing I wanted on the third night of our trip was to give people food poisoning.
As Tuesday night rolled around, H and I went to pick up the fish for our fish tacos (I promise to post on these soon because they were off the charts!). At Goatfeathers Seafood Market in Blue Mountain Beach, we asked about the oysters, were they local?…yes. how fresh are they?…caught this morning. if given the option, would you eat them raw right now?…yes. With that said, H and I picked up a 22 pound box of Apalachicola oysters, 2 bags of Charcoal, and an oyster knife.
Apalachicola oysters come from Apalachicola Bay in Florida. According to a June 2002 article in the New York Times, Chefs tend to prefer them because of their larger size and more “mellow” flavor. I have to agree, they are not terribly salty and they are almost always quite large in size. Once home, H built a large fire and poured the box out onto the grate. He then spend the next 20 minutes stirring the oysters in the hopes of evenly cooking them. After a careful removal process, we sat down to an oyster feast. All 22 pounds were gone within 20 minutes. While some slathered their treasures in cocktail sauce, I just popped mine in my mouth and savored one of the glories of coastal living.
2 bags Charcoal or enough to cover the areas with hot coals
22 pounds of Oysters
dish cloths and oyster knives for each person
Get a nice hot set of coals and pour oysters onto a grate right above them. Try to evenly distribute the oysters so they cook fairly evenly. Let cook until they start popping open. Pour onto a table and enjoy.
NOTE: The easiest way to open an oyster shell is to the insert the oyster knife at the hinge of the shell and pop it. Once you pop the hinge, it is much easier and safer to get the oyster out.