27 Dec

After taking things easy the past couple days, I was ready to get back to the grill tonight. I had planned to just heat up some of the leftover tenderloin from this past weekend using one of the grills in the Grill Garden instead of the stovetop and oven. That, however, all changed yesterday when we attended our friends, the Rawls, annual day after Christmas brunch.

When we got to our friends’ house, I saw that my buddy Jack was on the back deck shucking oysters in the 40+ degree weather. I said my hellos, headed to the deck and grabbed a glove and oyster knife. We had a routine, we would shuck the ones that opened easily, and the ones that didn’t we tossed onto a warm grill and waited for the heat to do the job for us. The oyster-eating guests would rotate from the den to the deck to grab an oyster or two, hit ’em with a shot of Tabasco sauce and knock ’em back.

I was talking to Jack about my favorite way to eat oysters – which is any way – but in particular, grilled on the half-shell over a charcoal fire. Jack made my day when he said “I bought a case of oysters and there’s no way we’ll eat them all today – I’ll send some home with you.” SCORE!

When we left the party, Jack had sat a sack full of oysters in the shell by our vehicle. I raced home and got them on ice and started anticipating!

Tonight, I started the preparations. I couldn’t find the paint can opener I improvised as an oyster knife the last time I had oysters in the shell, so I decided I would let the heat open the shells for me. I got the fire started in the Red Weber 1992 Model Performer (chosen because it has the largest grill grate of any of my grills except the Primo, and is easy to set up for a two level fire), and grabbed about three tablespoons of butter, some Worcestershire sauce, rock salt and a couple of bar towels.

The set up was to dump the lit coals in my usual configuration – two level fire – one side of the grate hot, one empty. I soaked the bar towels in water and wrapped the oysters in the towels and put the towels and oysters over the cool side of the grill. After about 7 minutes, the oysters were looking ready to open but they weren’t quite there and it was getting close to dinner time. I sat the oysters over direct heat for a couple of minutes and they started to crack. I worked the shells open with a knife blade and sat each one, on the half-shell, on a bed of rock salt in a rimmed baking sheet. Then I put the butter in a small pan over the coals and let the butter melt. The butter melted and was poured over the oysters, followed quickly by a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce, then each oyster was topped with grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese. Each oyster went back over the coals and the lid went on the Performer for about 4 minutes, until the liquid was bubbling and the cheese was melted.

I put the oysters back on their rock salt bed and brought them in for dinner. While the girls finished setting the table, I quickly toasted a slice of Italian bread and grabbed a bottle of Peter Luger’s Original Steak Sauce and headed to the table. I picked the Peter Lugers over Tabasco or Tiger sauce because, while it is marketed as a steak sauce, it has a dash of horseradish in it and is generally a sweet sauce. That would give me competing and complimentary flavors of the salty, briny oysters, the sharp Parmesan Reggiano, the smooth butter and the rich Worcestershire sauce. One oyster told me I had NAILED IT! All of the flavors came together perfectly and I had to stop myself from scarfing down the dozen or so oysters too quickly, making myself take the time to savor each and every one, using the chewy, crisp toasted Italian bread to mop up every drop of the juices left in each oyster shell.

The tenderloin? Well, if you can believe it about tenderloin, it was relegated to the role of “also served” at tonight’s dinner!


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