Snapshots from New Orleans: Grilled Oysters from Drago's Seafood Restaurant
Grilled oysters are common outdoor food in Louisiana, where people fire up their grills or build coals in a campfire to cook oysters on the half shell. It is hard to capture in words or pictures the interplay between briny oyster liqueur, juicy oyster meat, and the pats of garlic and butter set into the opened oysters, which are then grilled over a conventional barbecue rack or placed directly into hot coals. The charbroiled taste permeates the oyster meat and makes the buttery, juicy liquids inside even more flavorful; in one or two bites the oyster meat is gone, leaving you wanting more and more.
The grilled oysters I had at Drago's in New Orleans were cooked until the bottoms of the shells were blackened with soot and the oyster meat, still tender and juicy. Parmesan, something you might not think you'd want with seafood, boosted the savory flavor of the oysters as the cheese browned and grew crusty on the rims of the shells. At the table, we gnawed on the edges of our oyster shells once the meat was gone and soaked up the precious buttery liquid with lots of crisped up french bread.
Grilled oysters are straightforward to make for any outdoor party. The compound butter that is added prior to grilling can be as simple or complex as you'd like: garlic and parsley are common additions, but you can also add fillets of anchovy, finely chopped chili, red pepper flakes, or any number of fresh herbs to the mix. (The compound butter, as you can imagine, also makes a fine accompaniment to steak, lobster tails, grilled vegetables, and so forth, just to name a few.) Finally, it would not be a bad idea to add another dollop of butter and garlic to the shells after cooking, in case any of it seeped out during grilling. Sop up with plenty of crusty bread.