For the last few weeks I have been craving raw oysters. I don't always get into that mood, but when I do, my appetite becomes ferocious. However, I've discovered that not everybody shares my taste for raw oysters. So Chef Jerry Pellegrino has helped me to come up with a few other ideas if I'm going to invest in a few dozen crustaceans.
First, let's talk about oyster varieties. All east coast oysters are from one species: Crassostrea virginica. In the marketplace, each variety's name ties it to a specific body of water up and down the coast. In the Chesapeake Bay it seems that nearly every creek and backwater has its own variety. But the two dominant oysters are the mild and sweet Choptank and the sharply briny Chincoteague.
Both are great to eat raw. And of course you can have them straight up or topped off with a squeeze of lemon, a dollop of cocktail sauce or a drip of mignonette. And if you're not familiar with mignonette, it's nothing more than red wine vinegar and finely diced shallots. It's a nice off-set for the sweeter Choptank oysters.
If you like oysters any other way than raw, here are some ideas for preparation.
Oysters Rockefeller, the New Orleans invention, is often copied but never duplicated. The secret recipe from Antione's has never been cracked. But there are plenty of approximations on-line. Here's a link to a good one
A creamy hot bowl of oyster stew is easy to whip up... with or without potatoes. I just love the way the oysters plump up in the broth. Here's a recipe for a traditional oyster stew: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/235446/best-oyster-chowder-ever/
Grilled oysters are perfect for those of you who never shut down your grill. Just fire it up and put some half-shell oysters on the gridiron. Douse them with butter, garlic and chopped herbs and you will have a fabulous dish in no time flat. Try this one: https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/grilled-oysters-0.
Padded oysters take a little more time to prepare, but they are crowd-pleasing favorites. These are essentially breaded and fried oysters, crisp on the outside and oh, so tender on the inside. This recipe looked classic to me:
Finally, here's a recipe that dates back to colonial Maryland. Creamed oysters on toast points combines oysters and that old Tidewater stand-by, Smithfield ham.
This is my private recipe.
AL'S CREAMED OYSTERS ON TOAST POINTS
4 slices of toasted, buttered white bread, crust trimmed, cut into triangular quarters
one stick of salted butter,
1/2 lb shucked oysters with their liquor
salt and pepper
2 tbs finely minced shallots
2 tbs finely chopped parsley
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup oloroso sherry
slivers of Smithfield ham, about 1/2 cup
grated parmesan cheese
1. In a cast iron skillet, melt the stick of butter over low heat, then add the oysters and their liquor. Season with salt and pepper.
2. As the oysters begin to plump, stir in the shallots and parsley.
3. As the oysters become plump and start to curl, remove the skillet from
heat. Stir in the heavy cream and the sherry.
4. Place the slivers of Smithfield ham on the toast points, then scoop out one or two oysters and arrange them on top of the ham.
5. Ladle out spoonfuls of the sauce and pour generously over the oysters. Garnish with the grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
Makes 16 toast points