Jim Shahin’s latest column ventures afield to discuss the easy way to cook shellfish adding smoke flavor to oysters, clams, and mussels.
First of all, pay attention to Jim’s advice on grill techniques. He knows what he’s talking about.
Okay, now let’s focus on oysters for a minute. Why would you want to cook oysters in the first place? Once you’ve taken a step on the slippery slope of cooking oysters rather than eating them raw, I’ll concede that adding smoke flavor is indeed an improvement. But oysters should be eaten raw. They should be on the half-shell, served very, very cold with a few drops of lemon juice. If you like cocktail sauce, as I do, you should eat that separately on saltines between oysters, after adding all the horseradish you can find and some Tabasco Sauce. Roasted oysters and fried oysters and Oysters Rockefeller are okay, but they are sort of like barbecuing prime rib for 12 hours, or mixing bourbon and Coke. You are taking something wonderful and making it … less wonderful. Also, the advice about saving the juice from the oyster is misguided. Oysters properly should be eaten by placing the half-shell to your mouth and tilting so that you take the oyster and the juice together. This is equally true of raw and grilled oysters. There shouldn’t be any juice left to save.
Now if you find yourself with a can of raw oysters, feel free to fry them or add them to some gumbo or stew. Or toss them into a pan and smoke them on the grill. And clams and mussels are another matter. Clams are best fried or in a clam broth or chowder — say a clam and artichoke chowder. Mussels are best served in a pot with a side of fries, or perhaps grilled with a dollop of jalapeño butter. Heed Jim’s advice as to those.