Bivalve Bliss

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” —Jonathan Swift

I’ll admit it, I’m a little bonkers for bivalves. I love scallops grilled or sliced thinly and drizzled with olive oil as carpaccio, I love meaty mussels steamed in wine and cream with thyme, I love clams baked with garlic and butter or boiled with ale and chorizo. But the best of them all, in my humble opinion, is the oyster on the half shell.

(l to r) Malpeque, Fanny Bay, Kumamoto and Wellfleet oysters with grapefruit, fresh wasabi and ponzu

Much has been written about the oyster, and much debated. It’s purported to be an aphrodisiac. I often feel amorous after eating a dozen, but most often I’m also drinking champagne. Purists will complain if you put anything at all on a raw oyster. I’m a squeeze-of-lemon-and-bit-of-horseradish guy. I would never think of putting cocktail sauce or Tabasco on such a delicate thing. That’s for people who are trying to hide the fact that they’re eating a raw oyster. Of course, necessity being the mother of invention, I had oysters but no lemon and no horseradish so had to be creative. I did have a knob of fresh wasabi ($100 a pound at the Japanese market!), and some grapefruit my father-in-law had pilfered along the median in Palm Desert. Combined with a bit of ponzu from the fridge, and I’d discovered a palatable new take on the oyster.

Here, along with my wasabi grapefruit ponzu raw oysters, are two preparations for cooked oysters also served on the half shell. The larger size oysters work well for cooking, and are less expensive. Enjoy. For two people (adjust number of oysters per your preference):

*   *   *

Wasabi grapefruit ponzu oysters on the half shell

12 oysters, opened and on the half shell
1 quarter ruby red grapefruit
1 tablespoon freshly grated wasabi (or prepared wasabi)
1/4 cup ponzu sauce

Plate oysters on their half shells. Place a small dab of wasabi on each oyster. Squeeze a little grapefruit over each oyster, then drizzle with ponzu. Serve.

Garlic parmesan oysters

12 oysters, on the half shell
2 tbsp. butter
5 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane grater (or minced finely)
1/4 cup grated parmesan
lemon quarters

Place oysters on a large baking sheet. Place a small dab of butter on top of each oyster. Smear butter dab with a little of the grated garlic. Then sprinkle each oyster liberally with parmesan. Broil in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, or until cheese becomes golden and begins to brown. Remove from oven, squeeze with a little lemon and serve.

Barbecued oysters

*This is a favorite we enjoy up near my mom’s in Sonoma County during the summer, cooked with plump oysters fresh from Tomales Bay.

12 oysters, on the half shell
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup barbecue sauce

Heat a grill to high. Place oysters on a large platter. Place a dab of butter on each, then a teaspoon or so of barbecue sauce. Grind a bit of fresh pepper on top, and place on the barbecue. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until sauce is glazey and oysters look plump and cooked. Serve.

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”  — Ernest Hemingway

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. monica
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 00:35:09

    I agree, I love the clean simplicity of lemon and horseradish, or a nice Mignonette Sauce. I would have oysters every week if it wasn’t such a pain (and scary) to shuck them.


  2. Ben
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 16:45:43

    Good to see you feature the oysters. Incidentally, I just returned to Chicago last night from Key West where . . . you guessed it! . . . I toured Hemingway’s home and ate a whole bunch of oysters every night with cocktails. First time I’ve actually had grilled oysters, I’ve always just eaten them raw before. How are you pizza oven plans coming along?


    • scolgin
      Feb 08, 2011 @ 16:49:31

      Ah man, now I’ve got oyster AND Hemingway envy. Pizza oven’s on hold for the moment. If I decide to go ahead with it, I’ll probably plan it so I can pick it up this summer when I’m in the wine country and save $800 shipping. Ouch! (Or I might just go the BGE route… we’ll see…)


  3. Lisa Gaskin
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 16:24:11

    I love mussels but the sauce is the best part…do you have a good recipe? Dunking the bread is my favorite.


  4. g
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 03:14:43

    Where do you buy your oysters, Sean?

    I’ve always wanted to go downtown to the fish markets to get oysters, but I’ve never been able to go down early enough.


    • scolgin
      Feb 16, 2011 @ 03:35:41

      I typically get them at Santa Monica Seafood, or at the Santa Monica Weds. farmer’s market where there’s an aquaculture farm selling them. Never been to the seafood markets downtown, but yeah, that would be a kick. That reminds me, I should do a post on the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo — that was one of the most amazing experiences ever.


  5. Trackback: Secret Weapon Ingredient #2: Ponzu « skinny girls & mayonnaise

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