Grilled Oysters on a Bed of Salt

Grilling, Grilled Oysters

Grilled Oysters on a Bed of Salt

"You can grill any oyster you'd eat raw," says John Finger of California's Hog Island Oyster Co., "but bigger is better, since the longer they cook, the more they shrink." Rules of thumb: Opt for Pacific over Eastern, and look for 4–5-inch shell size. Have your fishmonger shuck one before you buy; the meat should almost fill the shell.Michael Turek

Instead of grilling oysters directly on the grill, Michael Anthony—chef of New York's Gramercy Tavern and the recently opened Untitled—nestles them on a tray lined with salt, which he then puts over the fire. "A salt bed distributes heat gently," he says, allowing the oysters to warm evenly and just plump up, making it nearly impossible to overcook the delicate meat. Plus, this preparation means they'll be easier to move around the grates, so you'll lose less of that precious oyster liquor. Serve with a simple grilled lemon-herb sauce to amp up the smokiness. Note: Besides salt, you can use seaweed or sand to form a bed for any shellfish on the halfshell.

Grilled Oysters on a Bed of Salt
For even cooking and easy maneuvering, use this simple method of grilling oysters as they rest on a tray lined with salt.
Yield: serves 6
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons, halved, plus wedges for serving
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 14 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups coarse salt
  • 1 dozen large oysters, shucked, top shell removed

Instructions

  1. Build a medium-heat fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium. Grill lemons, cut-side down, and herbs until charred, 8–10 minutes for lemons and 5–7 minutes for herbs; let cool slightly. Squeeze juice from lemons into a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer herbs to a cutting board, discard stems, and mince; stir into lemon vinaigrette. Spread salt in a 9 x 13-inch metal baking dish. Nestle oysters into bed of salt. Place dish on grill and cover with grill lid; grill until oysters are plump and beginning to curl at edges, 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve drizzled with lemon vinaigrette.

Pairing note: "Try a 2012 Schramsberg blanc de blancs ($38; schramsberg.com), because oysters are meant to go with bubbles. If you'd like something stiffer, a gin & tonic works well, too."—Vilma Mazaite, director of wine at laV; Austin, Texas