The communal fire

Last night we tried something so obviously wonderful that now I can't understand why we haven't been doing it all our lives.  We brought home a bag of unshucked oysters, had a bunch of neighbors over, and spent the evening around a fire pit grilling the oysters, shucking them, and eating them with a variety of condiments my husband whipped up yesterday morning.  (The lime-chili-cilantro sauce has to be tried to be believed.)

The oysters came fresh from the local bay.  Unshucked, they cost a small fraction of what we're used to:  $30 buys a 100-lb bag (more than 300 oysters), while a gallon of shucked oysters (perhaps 100) is fetching $54 these days.  Shucking is a breeze when the oyster has been grilled.  When the shell pops open a fraction, you know the oyster is done.

The free-standing metal fire pit, a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law, is a welcome addition to our patio.  Besides providing a fine focus for a friendly outdoor party at this pleasant time of year, it let us burn up some deadfall wood and produce ashes that we'll use in the garden.  And of course we had s'mores.

Lime Chili Cilantro Sauce

6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 TB fresh cilantro, minced
4 green onions, minced
1/3 cup Asian chili paste
2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp lime zest, minced
1/3 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/3 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
1-1/2 TB pickled ginger, minced

If you're starting with raw shucked oysters, you can spoon this sauce over them before grilling, and you can add the reserved oyster liquor to the sauce.  For grilling in the shells, we just cooked and opened the oysters, then let the guests spoon a little sauce over the top.  It's good on all kinds of things, not just oysters.  Its explosive flavor is a crowd pleaser.


Grim said...

Fish sauce, you say?

Texan99 said...

The Asian stuff, nuoc mam I think it's called. It can be got through the mail if there's not an Asian market nearby. Some ordinary grocery stores carry a version, too.

We finished off the oysters today with some of the same neighbors, this time adding an oyster-and-brie soup. What a weekend!

Grim said...

Well, since it's Vietnamese I can probably get it. If nothing else there's a big Viet community over in Atlanta, next time I'm in town. (Southeast Asian, really: that part of town is officially called Chamblee, but for a long time has been unofficially called "Chambodia." It's a great place if you're looking for authentic immigrant cuisine of many different kinds.)

Texan99 said...

There's a big Vietnamese presence on the Gulf Coast, so our tiny town, which otherwise depends on a single grocery store and a WalMart, boasts a little Vietnamese food store. Even the grocery store, not renowned for its adventurous stock, carries an Americanized brand called "Thai Kitchen" that's acceptable though not great.

I miss only two things about the big city: medical specialists and ethnic food. For a (low-end) tourist town, we have mostly pretty boring restaurants.

douglas said...

Wow, now that sounds like a great time. I think if you don't have an outdoor fire to gather 'round and socialize as you eat, there's something wrong with how you're living.