If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you know that it’s almost impossible to set foot in the city without eating an oyster. New Orleans is the birthplace of both the fried oyster po’ boy and oysters Rockefeller (made famous by Antoine’s). Signs for 50-cent raw oyster happy hours are as ubiquitous in the streets of the Latin Quarter as plastic takeout cups of bright red strawberry daiquiris.
One of the city’s greatest gifts to food is the array of oysters Rockefeller offshoots — oysters packed with savory mixes of herbs, garlic, or breadcrumbs and roasted briefly in a broiler or on a grill. Some of the best can be found at Cochon, a modern New Orleans restaurant owned by Donald Link. At Cochon, oysters are topped with a judicious slice of garlic-chile butter and grilled. The oysters become soaked with the spicy, lemony-garlic flavor and the smoke from the grill, and you can’t really help yourself from wanting to drink up the melted butter from the plate once they are gone.
But the heavenly combination of oysters and butter really doesn't mandate any additional notes of intrigue for your palate. Here's how to do it with just two ingredients: Open the oysters as you would for oysters on the half shell, discarding the top shells, Place one-tablespoon or so of chilled butter on each oyster. Position them on a hot grill until oysters begin to bubble and the oyster curls up around the edges, six to 10 minutes. (It’s good to melt a few tablespoons of butter to put on the oysters after they are grilled in case some of the butter spills out of the shells.) Serve immediately (you can add wedges of fresh lemon if desired).
And if you want to get really fancy and follow Cochon's lead: You can swap this two-ingredient delight for something slightly more complex and make a compound butter. Since you can make this in advance and leave it to chill in the refrigerator for a few days, these grilled oysters are a great recipe to make as a party appetizer. Serve them with some wedges of lemon and some slices of bread that have been brushed with olive oil and grilled briefly, and your guests will no longer be "waiting for dinner," but preoccupied with happiness and butter dripping all over their faces.
Cochon's Grilled Oysters with Garlic-Chile Butter
Makes 16 oysters
- 1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 anchovy fillets
- zest of one lemon
- juice of one lemon (about 2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp Vietnamese garlic chile paste
- 2 tsp crushed red chile flakes
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp salt
- 16 oysters, in the shell
- lemon wedges, for garnish
1. Make the compound butter: Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and allow it to soften to room temperature. Mince the garlic, anchovy, and lemon zest (or mash in a mortar and pestle), and then fold in the butter, lemon juice, garlic chili sauce, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Roll the butter into a log, wrap with plastic and refrigerate until needed.
2. Assemble the oysters: Follow the same directions as for the two-ingredient rendition above, swapping the compound butter for the plain variety.