National Oyster Day! Our twice-grilled oysters (and a little history)

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If you know me at all, you know I have a passion for oysters that borders on obsession. I’ve written two novels and a cookbook centered around the tasty bi-valves, and have whiled away many a happy afternoon in the oysterbeds and markets of Oysterville doing “research”.

That said…I, of course, have to share one of my very favorite recipes with you on National Oyster Day!

A little history

Chinook Indians gathered for centuries along Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula to harvest oysters and other seafood.

They called it “tsako-te~hahsh-eetl” or “place of the red-topped grasses.”

In 1854, while thousands were streaming into California in hope of finding gold, a young sailor named R.H. Espy was searching for his own treasure far up the northern coast. He became lost while navigating Washington’s then uncharted Shoalwater Bay and, in a heavy fog, Espy and his men feared they would paddle out to sea and never be seen again.

Lucky for them, the local Indian Chief spotted them and led them safely to shore.

On that shore, Espy found his treasure…in the form of vast clusters of native oysters, growing along the unclaimed mudflats of the bay. In San Francisco, hungry treasure-hunters paid fifty-dollars a plate for oysters, and soon Espy staked his claim and hit his mother-lode.

The oystermen were paid in gold, and Oysterville became the second richest city on the West Coast.

Today, tiny Oysterville is a National Historic District, and fresh oysters can still be found in Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay.

A number of small, family owned farms spurn the use of dredging a pesticides used by the larger corporations, and harvest fresh, deliciously organic oysters daily.

My family and I visit Oysterville often, and we love everything about this tiny town that time forgot. So much so, in fact, that two of my novels are based there. We get our oysters, hand-harvested, directly from the bay.

Here’s a favorite recipe of mine for those who truly love oysters…

Twice Grilled Oysters

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2 dz med-small fresh oysters, in shell
¼ cup Tillamook butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon pepper

Combine butter, garlic, and lemon pepper in pan.

Heat until simmering, stirring often, remove from heat and set aside.

Heat grill to med-high and scrub oysters under cold water with a wire brush.

Place oysters, cup side down*, on grill and close the lid.

Cook oysters 5-8 minutes, checking periodically. When an oyster has “popped” (the lid of the shell has opened, remove the oyster from the grill and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Reduce heat to med-low.

Remove the lid of each shell, cutting the oyster loose if necessary, and place cooked oyster in cup of shell, with about ½ of the remaining liquor.

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Drizzle on teaspoon of seasoned butter over each oyster and return to the grill. Cover and allow to cook 10-15 minutes.

Finished oysters will be a deep grey with browned and blackened edges.

Remove from grill and allow to cool until the shells can be handled.

Serve.

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Notes:

Re-grilling the oysters at a low heat with butter infuses them with a rich, nutty flavor that is completely unlike the taste of a “once cooked” oyster.

Tip: To make a unique and delicious spread, use chilled slow grilled oysters in your favorite cream-cheese based oyster spread recipe.

*To keep oysters upright on the grill, roll tinfoil into 1-inch diameter tubes and make a ring for each oyster to set in.

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
hautemealz.com

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