I love oysters raw and served on the half-shell with just a squeeze of lemon juice and maybe a dash of hot sauce, or a spoonful of a simple mignonette of minced shallot, a few cracks of black pepper and red wine vinegar. In Louisiana, I grew up eating plump Gulf oysters, and then during 10 years in France, I learned to love the flat, briny versions from Cancale. Here in Alaska, my oyster love continues with the abundance of delicious local varieties.
Not everyone is as enamored as I am with the raw bivalves, but when grilling season comes around, even the most squeamish among guests can't seem to get enough of them, especially when lightly bubbling in a buttery garlic sauce. Make sure the grill is hot and ready to go before starting. Cook oysters with the grill lid on and check after three to five minutes so as not to overcook them; you want to see them just starting to curl around the edges. Try to keep the juice in the shell when moving them to a serving platter and have lots of bread on hand for sopping up any extra sauce.
Shucking an oyster well is one talent I definitely do not possess. Luckily, my husband has become quite adept. I do know that a good knife is essential, and his favorite is the Victorinox oyster-shucking knife with a nonslip grip. If you want something more artisanal, try the low-country version from the Georgia Oyster Knife Co., and if you don't happen to have an oyster-shucking champion in your entourage, check out this video.
Grilled Alaska oysters
Serves 6 to 8 people
3 dozen fresh raw oysters
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot, to taste
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of 1 lemon, plus lemon wedges for garnish
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh chopped parsley (optional)
Shuck oysters, keeping as much of the liquor as possible; place on a large sheet pan. Some set lettuce leaves on the pan so oysters won't wobble and lose their liquid.
Heat grill to medium-high heat.
Combine melted butter, hot sauce, garlic, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl; stir to combine. Place shucked oysters on the grill and spoon the butter-hot sauce mixture over each oyster. Cover with grill lid and let cook about 2 minutes or until oysters are just cooked and they start to bubble and curl along the edges. Carefully move oysters to a serving platter and serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce on the side, along with some good bread for sopping up the sauce.
Adapted from an online column published in 2013.