As I write this I’m listening to the sound of thunder roll through our patio doors on a warm evening. I keep thinking that this might be the last of these storms, one of my favorite things about summer. The air gets thicker and heavier until a loud clap and a cool exhale start the brief respite from the relentless, sticky heat. But, the air is getting crisper, I’ve been eyeing my coats and boots, a pair of beautiful carnival squash showed up in our CSA, and I’ve got to face facts. Fall is here. And ushering in these “R” months means one thing — oysters!
In reality, this old adage is outdated. Commercial growing and harvesting techniques has made oysters no less safe in the summer than any other time of year. But, eating them raw with a mignonette or a little squeeze of lemon reminds me of fall and winter in Paris. Huddled around barrels or squeezing in for a spot at the bar with a crisp glass of wine, chatting with others doing the same, it all feels a little less cold and gray. So, when Z and I went to go check out the newly-opened Union Market (1309 5th St NE Washington, DC 20002), I couldn’t resist. We shared a dozen Virgina oysters at Rappahannock Oyster Co. in with some DC Brau and a fruity, slightly bubbly glass of vino verde.
If you have access to fresh seafood and are willing to clean, shuck, de-beard, and de-grit them yourself (easier than it sounds), mollusks are actually very affordable and easy to prepare. Eat them raw, batter and fry them, sauté them in their shells with some butter and herbs, or get out the grill like we did and roast ‘em. Luckily in this area, we’re blessed with some great VA oysters, and we headed over to the Main Avenue Fish Market for a few dozen.
Although oyster roasts are usually the kind of thing you put on for guests, we wanted to do a smaller-scale try run on our little Weber before we invited the gang. Plus, it’s easy and unfussy enough for an al fresco dinner for two if you ask me.
One of the beauties of roasting oysters is that it takes away the need to shuck them; but, we couldn’t resist opening a few. I whipped up a quick mignonette sauce and we ate them while the grill heated up. Shucking oysters does take some practice. But, with a glove or towel and a nice glass of beer, you can make quick work of it.
If you’ve never done this before, trust me when I say this: roasting oysters is dead easy. Stick them on the grill, close the lid and leave them alone until they open up just a bit. If you’re worried about your grill getting messy, you can put some tinfoil down, but we didn’t have any problems without it. You could do all this under the broiler as well, but I think half the appeal is getting outside.
Cook them too long and they’re rubbery, so keep an eye out. If your fire’s hot, you don’t need more than a few minutes before they start to leech juice and dry out. Oysters won’t pop all the way open like clams tend to do. You’re looking for something more like this.
Then, slurp them right out of the shell like you would a raw oyster — just try to keep that juice in if you can. You could always add a spicy relish or some herby butter. Z’s favorite way to eat them is on a buttered saltine with a little tabasco.
Southside Living: Maine Avenue Fish Market
Roasted Oysters (Rappahannock River Oysters)
Grilled Oysters (Simply Recipes)
How To Grill Oysters at Home (The Kitchn)
Grilled (or Broiled) Oysters with a Sriracha Lime Butter (Food52)