Monday, January 31, 2011

Baked oyster 牡蛎焼き

We usually make this dish on the grill but grilling was not an option in the bitterly cold weather we are having at the moment. I decided to do a small scale grilled (baked) oysters using the oven. Due to the simplicity of preparation this dish totally depends on the availability of good fresh live oysters. This is a very nice dish and perfect for an Izakaya feast.

At the near-by gourmet grocery store, they had live oysters but many were rather small (I assume they were Chesapeake bay oysters). I only got 4 (they were rather expensive).  I first pre-heated my convection oven to 450F. I washed the oysters in running water using a small brush to remove any dirt or seaweed attached to the shell. In a small frying pan, I added Kosher salt about a half inch thick (if you do not want to use salt, you could use crumpled aluminum foil instead). I placed the oysters on the salt with the pointed or deep side of the shell down (left in the image below). The salt help hold the oyster shells upright and also conducts the heat evenly. I made sure that the oyster shells were horizontal so that the juice wouldn't run out once the shells open. I placed the pan on the upper rack of the oven for 7-8 minutes*. I try not to over cook the oysters. You may have to remove the smaller ones earlier. All live oysters will open up like the one seen in the middle of the image below. If the shell does not open the oyster was dead and you should not attempt to eat it. Unfortunately that was the case with one of these. So four became three and we felt cheated. Taking care not to burn myself and not spill the juice, I grabbed the open edge of the upper shell and removed it. The shells can be removed very easily, usually without any tools. The larger oysters may still be attached to the shell but it is easy to detach them with a small knife. During this process it is important not to spill any of the liquid gathered in the lower shell. As you can see the oyster was done and sitting in a nice pool of briny oyster liquor (right in the image below).

*Although I have not tried, I remember seeing or reading that you could put the oysters in an oven for a short period (1-2 minutes??) to make the shells open without cooking them. Then, it is much easier to remove the oysters from their shells.

You could eat these with ponzu or lemon juice but the oyster liquor has its own flavor of the ocean itself and you may not need anything. Just slurp the liquor and eat the luscious plump oyster.

Hope we can do this in a bit larger scale when the weather gets warmer and we can fire up the charcoal grill.

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