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BBQ Oysters
© by Teri Fahrendorf

There's nothing quite like the bracing zing of a fresh briny oyster, and Fall-Winter-Spring is the time to grab some. Here are the tips you'll need before heading to your favorite seafood market or local oyster farm.

Fresh oysters are available year-round along both coasts, but are best September through April. The most common species of oysters found in the USA are the Eastern oyster (also called Atlantic or Blue Point), the European flat oyster (Belon), the Pacific oyster (formerly called Japanese oyster), and the Olympic oyster, which is the only oyster native to the Pacific Northwest.

On both coasts, oysters often go by the name of the bay or area where they are raised. Here in Oregon, those in the know say that Winchester Bay extra small oysters are the saltiest and most flavorful in the state.

This tasty briny bivalve is easily grilled over charcoal for superb flavor. When shopping for oysters, look for a fresh seafood market offering lots of shiny bright-eyed fish. Make sure your oysters are closed up tight. When the sales person wraps up your purchase, be sure they put the crushed ice on the bottom and the oysters on top. If the ice is on top, it can melt and the fresh water will kill your oysters. Dead oysters begin to decay rapidly, and consuming them can make you sick.

If you don't have an oyster knife, you may want to invest in one. It has a stiff blade about four inches long. Most seafood markets sell oyster knives.

Once you get back home, put the oysters in a bowl or pan, cupped side down, cover with a damp towel, and place on the bottom shelf of your fridge where it is coldest. If camping, put the oyster and ice bag in the top half of your ice chest, so that the oysters don't drown in the water at the bottom of the cooler.

When ready to eat, scrub the shells with a stiff brush to remove dirt and seaweed.

BBQ OYSTERS

Each recipe below is for one dozen small-to-medium oysters. A barbeque grill with a lid works best as it infuses a charcoal-smoky flavor into the oysters. One brand is the New Braunfels Mini Boss. Its small size is perfect for camp or a picnic.

Check here for availability (we get no commissions), http://www.charbroil.com/grills/charcoal.asp

Charcoal imparts the best flavor, but please don't use lighter fluid! It's the same thing as jet fuel, and tastes like it. A charcoal chimney is a handy tool for starting your charcoal.

You can get one at your local hardware store, and here's a link to an online merchant, http://www.outofthefryingpan.com/gadgets/charcoal.chimney.shtml

If you have a propane grill, go for it, but don't let the fire get too hot. Below are two tasty sauces for your BBQ oysters. Both recipes are easy, so you may choose to try them both and pick your own favorite.

TOOLS NEEDED

BBQ grill, with lid preferred
8-inch or larger fry pan
Tongs
Spoon
Hot pad mitts
Oyster knife or other short-bladed sturdy knife
Serving Plate

OYSTERS IN BBQ BUTTER SAUCE

The butter totally changes the flavor of the barbeque sauce, and gives the sauce a smooth and mellow flavor.

1 dozen oysters
¼ of a 16 oz. bottle of barbeque sauce
½ stick of butter

Once charcoal briquettes are ready, carefully pour from charcoal chimney into the grill and spread evenly. Melt butter and heat together with barbeque sauce in pan over hot coals, remove and set aside. Place oysters cupped side down on the grill. Lower grill lid. Check after 3-4 minutes. As soon as first oyster has popped its shell a little, take all oysters off of grill and put on serving plate to cool a bit. Once shells can be safely handled, open oyster shells one at a time, returning to the serving platter as you open them, being careful not to spill the oyster liquor. Once all oysters are open, spoon ½ - 1 teaspoon of the BBQ Butter Sauce on top of each oyster, and return the oysters carefully to the grill. Close the lid and cook for about 2 more minutes, being careful not to overcook or allow the oyster liquor to evaporate. (More time is required if the grill has no lid.) Remove the oysters to the serving platter, let cool if necessary, and enjoy.

OYSTERS BARTON

This recipe is my husband's version of Oysters Kilpatrick. The bacon gives it a pleasant smoky flavor. If you want additional smoky flavors, sprinkle ½ cup of apple or cherry wood chips over the hot coals just before placing the oysters on the grill.

1 dozen oysters
4 strips of bacon (left over from breakfast)
½ of an 8 oz. bottle of cocktail sauce
lemon wedges (optional - for garnish)

Once charcoal briquettes are ready, carefully pour from charcoal chimney into the grill and spread evenly. Crumble bacon and mix with cocktail sauce in pan over the hot coals until warm. Remove pan and set aside. For an optional spiked variation, mix in a splash of dark beer, or bourbon, or Tabasco sauce, or horseradish sauce. The alcohol in the dark beer or bourbon is driven off by the heat, but a caramel flavor remains.

Place oysters cupped side down on the grill. Lower grill lid. Check after 3-4 minutes. As soon as first oyster has popped its shell a little, take all oysters off of grill and put on serving plate to cool a little. Once shells can be safely handled, open oyster shells one at a time, returning to the serving platter as you open them, being careful not to spill the oyster liquor. Once all oysters are open, spoon ½ - 1 teaspoon of Barton Sauce on top of each oyster, and return the oysters carefully to the grill. Close the lid and cook for about 2 more minutes, being careful not to overcook or allow the oyster liquor to evaporate. (More time is required if the grill has no lid.) Remove the oysters to the serving platter, let cool if necessary, and enjoy. Squeeze a little lemon on each oyster for added zest.

Bon Appetìt!


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