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What's Up Magazine

Aw, Shucks: A Culinary Guide to Oysters

Aug 07, 2012 12:53PM ● By Anonymous

But oysters are just as delicious grilled, sautéed, and fried as they are straight from the Bay. Let’s take a look at oysters, figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction about the bivalves, learn new ways to prepare them, and find out where we gather to celebrate them.



Grilled Oysters Slathered in Fennel Butter

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 tablespoon fennel fronds, minced
1 tablespoon shallots, minced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon salt
16 medium oysters

In a small bowl, blend the butter with the ground fennel seeds, fronds, shallot, salt, and pepper.

oysters1Prepare your grill, or preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Once the grill is ready, arrange the oysters on the grates, cover, and cook for three to five minutes. The oysters will begin hissing and releasing juice, but not open up entirely. Transfer to a large plate or baking sheet. If using an oven, arrange the oysters on a large-rimmed baking sheet and roast for three to five minutes.

Pry each bivalve open with an oyster knife, loosen the oyster, and discard the flat shell. Slather each oyster with fennel butter and serve hot along with slices of grilled bread.


Coconut and Chili Crusted Oysters

Grand prize-winning recipe at the 2010 National Oyster Cookoff in Leonardtown, Maryland, created by Michaela Rosenthal.

For the oysters
24 oysters, shucked
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon Asian chile sauce
1 cup dark beer
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups unsweetened coconut, shredded
1 ½ cups peanut oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon seafood seasoning

For the relish
3 tablespoon unsalted clarified butter
1 small red onion, chopped
1 ¼ cup fresh pineapple, diced
¼ cup pineapple jam or preserves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons basil, choppedGarnish
Boston lettuce leaves
Fresh lime wedges
Fresh basil leaves

Toss the oysters with lime juice and chile sauce in a small bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the beer and flour to make a batter. Dip the oysters in the batter, one at a time, and then roll in coconut. Set aside and repeat with all the oysters.

Heat the peanut and sesame oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oysters to the oil and cook two minutes per side until the coconut is a light golden brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle each one with seafood seasoning.

To make the relish, melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for two minutes, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for 20 minutes until the onions are caramelized. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Combine the fresh pineapple with the jam, lime juice, jalapeno, and basil. Mix in the onions. Line a platter with lettuce and basil leaves, then arrange the oysters over the lettuce. Spoon relish on top of the oysters, and serve with fresh lime wedges.


Spicy Thai Barbecued Oysters

½ cup lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup sugar1 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped2 teaspoons garlic, minced1 teaspoon fresh red chile, minced24 large oysters

Combine the fish sauce, lime, sugar, cilantro, garlic, and chile in a small bowl and mix until the sugar dissolves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then season to taste.

Prepare your grill, keeping your oysters, sauce, a cutting board, oven mitt, tongs, and oyster knife nearby. Plate the oysters flat-side-up on the grill rank, and then close the lid. Grill for three to five minutes, until the top shell opens slightly. Keeping the oysters level, transfer them to the cutting board using tongs. Hold the oyster using an oven mitt, and remove the top shell. Cut the oyster away from the top shell, and leave it in the bottom shell. Discard the top shells. Spoon 1 teaspoon of sauce into each oyster, and then return them to the grill. Close the lid until the sauce bubbles, about two to four minutes. Serve immediately.


Spicy Oyster Fettuccine

¼ cup butter, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
24 oysters, shucked 
½ cup corn kernels
4 ounces pimento peppers, chopped
½ cup seafood stock (you can substitute veggie stock, if necessary)
1 pound fettuccine (or other flat pasta)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
*Optional: Substitute half a pound of shrimp for half the oysters, if desired. You can also add crab meat.

Melt two tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and then whisk in the flour to make a roux. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, and set aside.

Sauté the mushrooms, red pepper flakes, and garlic in ¼-cup butter over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the oysters, corn, and pimentos and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Whisk in the roux and stir until the sauce thickens, and then reduce the heat. Fold in the parsley, scallions, and crab meat and cook until heated through. Toss the sauce with the pasta, and serve immediately.


Fried Oyster Po’Boy with spicy remoulade

Canola oil, for frying
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
40 large oysters, shucked
2 cups yellow cornmeal
4 six-inch hoagie rolls

Sandwich fixings: shredded lettuce, tomato slices, and dill pickle chips

Heat two inches of canola oil into a six-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In a large bowl, combine the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Add the oysters and toss so they are thoroughly covered with seasoning. Add the cornmeal and toss again. Working in batches, add the oysters to the oil and fry until golden brown, or about three minutes. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain. Prepare the rolls by spreading the inside with a layer of spicy remoulade. Divide the oysters among the rolls, and top with your choice of lettuce, tomato, and pickles.

For the Remoulade
makes 1 ½ cups
1 ¼ cups mayonnaise
¼ cup grainy mustard
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 tablespoon dill pickle juice
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon hot sauce

Combine all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Upcoming Oyster Events

St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival • St. Mary’s County Fairground • Saturday and Sunday, October 21st and 22nd.
It’s all about oysters at this annual festival—served up raw, grilled, on bread, on the half-shell, stewed, salads, even desserts, as well as cooking and shucking contests. Admission is $5 for adults; kids under 12 are free. Visit

OysterFest • Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum • Saturday, November 3rd.
The Maritime Museum celebrates Bay bivalves with live music, food, and family activities, as well as skipjack and buyboat rides, oyster acquaculture and restoration demonstrations, oyster tonging, and cooking demonstrations. $15 for adults, $6 for children from 6 to 17, free for those five and under and CBMM members. Visit

Chesapeake Oyster and Beer Festival • Gaylord National Resort, National Harbor • February 2013.
Are you ready for all-you-can-eat-and-drink oyster and beer? This festival ships in more than 10 types of oysters from around the world so you can compare and contrasts the flavors against our beloved Chesapeake Bay variety. Visit

Top Five Oyster Myths

Oysters and other shellfish should be eaten only in months with an “r” in them. Fiction—sort of.

There was a time when you only wanted to eat oysters during the colder months, e.g. September through April. This was because of inadequate refrigeration and the presence of the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus, which is more prevalent in the warmer months. These days, it’s relatively safe to eat oysters during the summer as the risk of encountering the bacteria is similar throughout the year. However, in terms of taste, you might want to stick to the colder months. Because oysters spawn in June, a summer oyster will be watery and bland; However, in January, it will have fattened up to be a sweet, plump oyster.

An experienced oyster eater can tell a healthy oyster from a tainted one. Fiction.

Vibrio vulnificus bacteria can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted. You’ll only know of its presence when the symptoms (similar to food poisoning, though more serious symptoms can occur) strike.

Oysters are high in cholesterol. Fiction.

Many other varieties of shellfish such as shrimp, lobster, crab, and squid, while healthy, are high in cholesterol. However, oysters are actually very low in cholesterol.

You might find a pearl when eating oysters. Fiction.

It’s pretty uncommon to find a pretty pearl in the oysters used for culinary purposes. While all species of mollusks are able to create pearls out of foreign materials that are lodged in its flesh, they rarely come out looking shiny and beautiful like the ones made into necklaces. Instead, you might find a “pearl” that resembles a small chickpea.

Oysters are an aphrodisiac. Fiction—sort of.

It’s been touted for centuries that oysters boost the romance factor, but there’s never been much to support that claim. However, the American Chemical Society presented findings last year that mussels, clams, and, yes, oysters contain compounds that could be effective in releasing sexual hormones. The studies aren’t conclusive, so you still might be going out on a limb by saying it ramps up the romance factor—but it couldn’t hurt.


A Shucking How-To

Shucking an oyster properly requires a strong knife and a bit of precision. It’s best to use an oyster knife, which has a sturdy, thick blade specifically designed for opening the shells.

Begin by scrubbing the oyster clean using a brush under cold, running water. Place a folded kitchen towel in the palm of your hand – you don’t want to slice yourself open in the process. Hold the oyster with the cupped side facing down, and use the knife to pry into the oyster’s hinge. Twist the knife and pop off the top shell. Gently slide the knife along the inside of the top shell, loosening the oyster flesh, and then remove the top shell completely. Detach the oyster meat from the bottom shell by running the knife under the flesh until it’s completely separated. Now you can grill, fry, roast, or consume to your liking!