• Tommy Centola

Perfect time for oysters

I find that December and January are the perfect months for oysters. They often find their way to the holiday dinner tables. My family’s get-together for the holidays center around oysters. Family members will open up sacks of oysters for the festivities.

You are probably wondering how do we cook all those oysters? Today I will share with you a couple of the recipes that we cook. First is the Char Grilled Oysters, which is one of the best appetizers I have ever eaten. The second is a soup that is best made with freshly shucked oysters. Let’s head to the kitchen!

Here’s a great way to start a meal. If I see char grilled oysters on a menu, an order will always find a way to the table. Be careful. These are very addictive. It’s hard to stop with just one order.

Char Grilled Oysters

2 sticks butter soften

3 tablespoons garlic chopped

¾ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 ½ dozen oysters on the half shell

¼ cup Parmesan cheese grated

2 ½ teaspoons fresh parsley chopped

Mix butter, garlic, pepper, and Italian Seasonings together in a bowl. Heat a grill, either gas or charcoal, and put the oysters still in their shell over the hottest part of the grill. Spoon enough of the seasoned butter over the oysters so that some of it will over-flow into the fire and flame up a bit. The oysters are ready when they puff and get curly on the edges. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and parsley on top. Serve on the shell immediately with hot French bread to soak up the sauce.

There is no better soup than an oyster soup. They key to preparing this properly is to add the oysters just before serving. You want to heat them thoroughly, but not overcooking them. This way, they will retain their plumpness and flavor.

Oyster Soup

3 1/2 cups water

2 dozen freshly shucked oysters, drained

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup green onions, chopped

1/2 cup onions, chopped

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon thyme, dried

1/8 teaspoon red pepper, ground

1 bay leaf

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the oysters and cook for 3 minutes. Remove oysters with a slotted spoon and reserve 3 cups of the liquid. Set both aside.

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, cook celery, green onions, and onions in 1 tablespoon of butter, stirring constantly until tender. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the reserved liquid, garlic, thyme, red pepper, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Stir in the cream, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk and return to a simmer.

Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring until smooth. Cook one minute, stirring constantly, then cook for about 3 minutes until smooth(the mixture will be very thick).

Gradually add the flour mixture to the saucepan, stirring with a wire whisk until blended. Add oysters, salt, and white pepper. Cook until thoroughly heated. Remove from the heat, discard bay leaf and serve immediately.

I know that oysters in the shell are hard to come by here in Arkansas. There are plenty of places that will sell them to you already shucked. Just as long as they were not frozen. I find that oysters loose their flavor when they have been frozen.

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