Roasting oysters on the half shell is a little different than cooking other things at high heat. The purpose isnt so much to char and brown them as it is to heat them through, just enough for them to release all their flavorful juices and firm up slightly. These oysters are topped with little spoonfuls of a shallot-white wine-butter sauce, which mixes with the oyster juices and reduces in the oven, while the shallots get crisp. Six oysters make an impressive appetizer, or you can pass the oysters still in their baking dish (wear oven mitts) as an hors doeuvres.
To keep the oysters balanced while they roast, I line the baking dish with a layer of rock salt dotted with peppercorns. The salt and pepper makes a great presentation. You can buy rock salt at a hardware store. Its inexpensive and one bag will last you forever!
Recipe courtesy of Chef Waldy Malouf, Chef/Co-Owner, Beacon Restaurant & Bar, New York City.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chicken stock, vegetable broth, or water
Rock salt to roast the oysters on
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
24 oysters (see sidebar)
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
2. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots and wine or vermouth. Cover and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the chicken stock and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and stir in the herbs.
3. Cover the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish large enough to hold all the oysters with rock salt. Sprinkle the peppercorns evenly over the salt. Open the oysters, discarding the top shell. Loosen the oysters from the bottom shell, being careful not to spill their juices, and lay them in the baking dish. Stir the shallot mixture and spoon some over each oyster. Roast until the edges of the oysters just begin to curl, about 5 to 8 minutes. Serve on the baking dish with lemon wedges.
Sidebar: Buying and Shucking Oysters
For this recipe, you need to buy live oysters with unblemished shells. When opened, the meat should be pale (its color will vary, but avoid any that are pink), plump and glossy and should smell like fresh seawater. If they smell off, discard them.
When you get the oysters home, scrub their shells in cold water with a brush. Store them flat on a baking sheet in the refrigerator, covered with a slightly damp paper towel, and use them within 2 days.
You can have your fishmonger shuck the oysters for you if you plan to use them immediately, just ask him to reserve their juices so you can bring them home. Before roasting, strain the oyster juice and add a teaspoon of the juice to each oyster.
To shuck live oysters yourself, insert a thin bladed knife (or oyster knife) into the joint, or 'foot' of the shell, and twist the blade to loosen the shell. Being careful not to spill the liquid, slide the knife along the top of the shell (not deeply enough to cut the oyster). Discard the upper shell and cut through the muscle holding the oyster to the bottom shell.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.