Cooking Oysters -- while camping
We are heading up to Canada next month and my guidebook recommends a spot to buy fresh oysters so as to roast them over hot coals. Well our (car camping) campground will have a fire pit so we can make a campfire, and we have a little propane burner. But we won't have a grill so charcoal is out. I love the idea of eating fresh oysters without having to learn how to shuck them (shucking seems really difficult). Can I cook 'em enough to have them open just using a frying pan on a burner? Or should I build a fire and use that?
Help is appreciated!
You don't need a whole grill...just a sack of charcoal or some nice dry hardwood, a flat spot of dry ground, and some sort of grate (any heat-proof metal mesh will do...hardware cloth or chicken wire, an old rack from an oven, the upper basket of a shopping cart, a wire shelf from an old fridge, etc). Open the oysters carefully, loosen from the bottom shell, then top with a little butter, garlic, and grated parmesan (you could mix up the flavored butter before you leave home & take it along in a plastic bag or container). Cook over a hot-hot fire (coal or open) until the butter melts & the oysters curl. Eat with lots of bread to sop up the juices & butter...
Char-grilled oysters are one of life's true delights, and a damn good reason to visit post-Katrina New Orleans...Acme Oyster House, Drago's, and other spots sell hundreds of dozens a day cooked in this fashion.
And while I love 'em raw, I can't imagine shunning cooked oysters--no oysters mosca? no rockefeller? no bienville? no oyster patties or oyster stuffing at Thanksgiving? no fried oyster poboys? no oysters in seafood gumbo? What a sad world it would be...
Oysters are best raw. Any cooking is a compromise.
If you're cooking them just to keep from shucking, what a shame! Julia Child used to teach a simple way to shuck using a can opener instead of a knife. These are the old fashioned, triangular pointed-tip, can punching openers that everybody used to use to drink from cans - of course, that may be a problem unto itself - finding one of them these days. Anyway, if you do find one, just bury the tip into the joint (the pointy back end) until you have the leverage to pop it as you would in punching a hole in the can. Once popped, it's easy to get a knife in and slide across the top to get the shells apart, and then to cut the oyster from the bottom (and turn the critter over). Make sure you hold the bottom (the deep or cupped side) firmly and don't let any of the juice out, as that's a big part of the flavor. Anybody that rinses oysters is most certainly going to hell - I mean, it's gotta be on somebody's list of sins...
Sounds like a great trip. If you just heat them just a bit on any sort of burner they'll begin to open and then could be easily shucked (at home I microwave for 10-20 seconds if I don't want a difficult shucking job, freezing also works but not while camping). Remember to bring along a cooking mitt!
You probably could also do a modified clambake, but with just your oysters. If your campground is on the coast, you could do it in seaweed, otherwise, I would just wrap them in a foil packet and bury it in your campfire coals. A traditional clambake would include corn, potatoes, and kielbasa, which makes for a full meal. No shucking involved here, although shucking oysters is pretty easy and I have to admit that I actually think it is fun. Just one word of caution, I'm not sure where you are going (east coast Canada or west coast Canada?), but there was a huge red tide outbreak last month on the west coast of Canada requiring severe restrictions on the bivalve shellfish harvest. If you are planning to harvest yourself, check the conditions and do your research. You can get up to the minute conditions from the Canadian fisheries website: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/ops/fm/s... . There is nothing better than plucked-from-the-ocean-a-minute-ago fresh, so I hope you will get your oysters and feast!
Oysters may be roasted over a camp fire on a grate, or you can use your pot or fry pan and steam them with a bit of water at the bottom and a lid or a wet cloth placed over the oysters. When the shells open, the oysters are done. The wider the shell is open, the more well done the oyster is, and less juicy. You don't have to shuck, unless you want them raw...it's not that difficult, just need an oyster knife and a dish cloth.