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.