Don’t listen to your grandmama, you can eat oysters in June
I typically try to avoid talking people out of their beliefs in food myths or “old wives tales.” Who am I to tell you that your Grandmama fudged on the truth and actually most of these food myths are based in good solid reasoning? But there is one food rule that I break on a regular basis, and I don’t mind telling you why.
“Only eat oysters in the months that have an R in them.”
This rule is meant to be broken. First of all I don’t ever go to New Orleans without eating oysters in some shape, form or fashion. Raw on the half-shell is my preferred style, and I could care less what month it is. But this saying has been around for a long time, and there’s a reason — actually two. This started mainly before refrigeration, and oysters spoil quickly. Packing them in barrels of sawdust or seaweed and then surrounding them with burlap bags of ice just doesn’t cut it in July and August. But we’ve overcome that little inconvenience, so on to the next reason.
Oysters spawn in the warm summer months, usually May through August, although natural Gulf water oysters can spawn year-round due to the warm waters.
Spawning causes them to become fatty, watery, soft and less flavorful instead of having the more desirable lean, firm texture of those harvested in cooler, non-spawning months. Even so, there are plenty of good oysters to be found in your grocery store, imported from cooler waters or from farms.
And if you are traveling in the Northwest be sure to check out their Pacific Oysters. Their shape, texture and flavor are different — not better just different.
If you’re firing up your grill this summer and you can get your hands on a bag of fresh oysters, here is a recipe you definitely want to try. It is from one of my favorite places in New Orleans and this recipe is right on point.
Drago’s Chargrilled Oysters
3 stick of butter
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
A pinch of dried oregano
24 oysters on the half shell
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Place the butter, garlic, oregano and black pepper in a small saucepan and heat over low heat. In a small bowl mix the two cheeses and parsley together.
Heat a gas or charcoal grill. Place oysters on the half shell right over the hottest part. Spoon enough of the seasoned butter over the oysters so that some of it will overflow into the fire and flame up a bit. Cook for about 2 minutes and then sprinkle on the cheese mixture. The oysters are ready when they began to curl up on the sides and the cheese puffs up. Serve on the shells immediately with hot French bread.
This next recipe is easily made with the shucked oysters you can find at the grocery store. Be sure you check the expiration date when you buy them and be sure they are being kept cold.
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots, if unavailable use a red onion
2 tablespoons sea salt
24 oysters, reserve the oyster liquor they are packed in
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon sugar
Mix the three juices, white wine, sugar and the 2 tablespoons of salt together and whisk well. Place 24 shot glasses on a tray. Drop a pinch of the chopped shallot into each glass and sprinkle it with a pinch of the sea salt. Add an oyster to each glass, followed by 1/ 2 teaspoon of oyster liquor. Add one tablespoon of the juice mixture. Sprinkle just a grain or two of sea salt on them and another little pinch of the shallots. Hold in the refrigerator, and be sure you use within four hours.
Christina Hall writes a food column for The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at email@example.com.