Chargrilled Oysters - A Taste Treat Born in Louisiana Adds Zest to Any Seafood Table
Updated: May 18
Oyster roasts are popular Virginia events, especially for those who prefer not to slurp down the bivalve mollusks raw. On the Gulf Coast, especially around New Orleans, favored ways to prepare oysters is to chargrill or broil them. Some of the sauces are deliciously intricate and watching grill chefs create a little oyster flambé adds to dining flair.
In late 2013, we enjoyed some delicious chargrills at Palmettos on the Bayou in Slidell, La., a waterfront restaurant where oysters are grilled on a deck nestled in a cypress marsh and surrounded by live oaks dripping Spanish moss. Kirk Dunbar, one of Palmetto’s co-owners, readily shared, though, that Tommy Cvitanovich, whose Croatian parents opened Drago’s Seafood restaurant in Metairie, La., 45 years ago, “really put chargrilled oysters on the map about 20 years ago.” The two Drago’s restaurants have been known to prepare up to 900 dozen oysters a day! The Acme Oyster House is also famed for its delicious chargrills.
Given the popularity of Virginia oysters, it is somewhat surprising chargrills haven't caught on around the Chesapeake Bay. Yes, they can be a little labor intensive, but the payoff at the end is so worth it!
Here are a couple recipes:
Grilled Oysters (Palmetto’s)
Note: these portions are party-sized, enough to easily cover a couple hundred oysters. For small batches of a couple dozen oysters cut ingredient portions by about 80 percent the amounts listed here.
6 lbs butter
½ cup chopped garlic
4 sprigs rosemary
4 Tbl black pepper ground
3 Tbl seafood base
2 Tbl white pepper
3 cups oyster liquid
2 bottles beer
3 Tbl season all
6 oz. Worcestershire
1 cup corn starch
3 oz. truffle oil
6 each lemons zested and juiced
About a bushel of oysters on half shell
In a large pot melt 3 pounds of butter and sweat the garlic, rosemary and seafood base. Add remaining ingredients (except other half of butter and truffle oil) and bring to a boil. Slurry with the cornstarch and remove from heat. Place small amount of liquid in blender and add truffle oil and butter slowly to thicken and cool down. Light grill (gas or charcoal). High temperature is best.
Place oysters on grill and spoon on small amount of oyster butter. When oysters start to bubble, add more butter spilling some on the fire source to flare. This flare will char the edges giving them a fire-roasted flavor. Cooking takes about 6 to 10 minutes.
Adding green onion, parmesan cheese and cooked, chopped bacon as a finishing touch is optional but advised.
Drago’s Charbroiled Oysters
This recipe for Drago’s oysters is available on multiple web sites. Recommended only for outdoor grills and freshly-shucked oysters.
2 lb. butter, softened
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
1 Tbs. black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
6 dozen oysters on the half shell
1 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, mixed
3 Tbs. chopped parsley
Mix butter with the garlic, pepper, and oregano. Heat a gas or charcoal grill and put oysters on the half shell right over the hottest part. Spoon the seasoned butter over the oysters enough so that some of it will overflow into the fire and flame up a bit.
The oysters are ready when they puff up and get curly on the sides – usually about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan and Romano and the parsley on top. Serve on the shells immediately with hot French bread. Garnish with lemon wedges.
Footnote: Unless you’re handy with an oyster knife, safely opening dozens of raw oysters to prepare them for grilling can be a challenge. As an alternative, buy freshly shucked oysters and grill them in something like Schwing’s SOS stainless steel oyster shells. www.sosoystershells.com.