By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
When the oyster farmer tells you that you just fed him the best cooked oyster that he has ever eaten, you know you are on to something.
I’m proud of this dish, and it is so simple that I can do nothing but bask in its modesty, even if it does bring me a modicum of praise in the process.
I was so happy with how these came out, that I texted my buddy, Joel, to tell him what the oyster farmer had said. He insisted on being the first paying customer to order these in the new restaurant, and how am I to turn that down?
Like me, he has an affinity for New Orleans, a town of which you know I am quite fond.
A couple of years ago, my girlfriend accompanied me on a business trip, and it was her first time experiencing the most fascinating city in our great nation.
Our first stop after checking into the hotel was the Acme Oyster House, and we ate more than our fair share of their wonderfully garlic-laden mollusks and drank a few delicious ice-cold brews, which of course set us back quite a bit. But, it was worth every lost cent.
Truth be told, I would not go so far as to say that we lost anything, except mayhap our good sense. You see, it was early in the day and we ran into friends and colleagues from up north, and as such were merely setting the stage for what would happen next.
We meandered from our lunch and headed down to Bourbon Street.
I pointed out buildings, bars and things of note that I had learned over my numerous trips (but I would be remiss if I did not mention that I have never been on a cemetery tour. Shame on me), and we were naturally inclined to jump into the first tourist-trap bar that we happened upon offering the monster Hurricane for a mere $6 since it was still lunchtime.
Why not? We’re in New Orleans.
I slowly shake my head guiltily as I recall that it was later in the evening that I would introduce my sweet, innocent Dawn to Buzz Balls, the ubiquitous high-octane MD 20/20 of the next generation. I am so sorry.
We would stop every few blocks to watch many of the spectator sports, whether it be the buskers, the already-drunks stumbling down the street with thick Jersey accents or the homemade marching bands ranging in age from middle school to senior citizens.
It’s a place where you can feel strangely alive and one that you spend your life up north just pretending that you can recreate. It’s not happening.
But throughout it all, and for all the amazing meals that I have eaten in New Orleans, I always go back to the garlic oyster. It is the perfect way to cook this wonderful shellfish, and if you love The Big Easy as much as I do, you know that this will transport you back there, if only for the briefest of moments. And at this point of our lives, we could all use a little bit of that.
Nola-inspired Garlic Roasted Oysters
24 Johnson Bay deep-cup oysters
2 c. garlic butter (recipe follows)
½ c. good parmesan
Parsley and lemon wedges for garnish
- In The Big Easy, the oysters are shucked and placed directly on the grill. For this recipe, though, we are going to shuck and place them in the oven.
- Shuck the oysters over a strainer on a pan so that you can reserve as much of the oyster liquor as you can.
- Place the oysters on a pan and pour the liquor evenly back into the shells.
- If you are going to roast these in the oven, preheat to 500F.
- Top each oyster with a fair amount of garlic butter, dividing it evenly.
- Place the oysters in the oven and bake for about 4 minutes. You should start to see some shrinking and contracting as this happens.
- Pull the oysters out, and switch the oven to broil.
- Top the oysters with the parmesan and place under the broiler.
- Heat until the oysters are cooked, the liquor and butter are bubbling and the parmesan is a lovely golden brown.
- Remove and divide among 4 plates.
- Squeeze a little lemon on them and then garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.
- Serve and close your eyes, imagining the sounds of Frenchmen Street and the Hot 8 Brass Band while sipping on an Abita or Sazerac. Ah, to be back.
makes about 2 cups
1 ½ c. whole butter, salted
½ c. garlic, fresh and minced
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
**More salt if you like
- Bring the butter to room temperature, but do not let it melt all the way.
- Mix all of the ingredients together until well incorporated. If you want it to be a bit more spreadable at refrigerated temperature, whip it in a stand mixer. This will aerate it (similar to making ice cream or whipped cream) and make it ‘fluffier’ and not so rock hard as it cools.
- Keep refrigerated until needed. If it end up being hard, just pull it out of the icebox 30 minutes before preparation.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor of Culinary Arts
at Wor-Wic Community College
and owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com