There's perhaps no other seafood which is more appealing to me than smoked oysters. Many of you may have had the canned variety, which are sold in most grocery stores. Obviously, the quality and flavor varies greatly, and the good ones are rather expensive. That got me thinking that there's really no reason at all that I shouldn't try preparing them myself.
My first try was not entirely successful, as I ended up with tiny chewy bits which even the cats weren't interested in. My technique, or lack thereof, was simply to place them on a sheet of foil, which I poked some holes in so the smoke could circulate better. I expected them to dry out quite a bit, but not to the extent that they did ... pretty much a total loss.
I adjusted my technique on the second attempt, however, and the results were far superior. What I was really looking for was a moderately firm but juicy oyster which I would ultimately marinate in a good olive oil. This time I started the process as before, placing the oysters on a piece of foil and poking a few holes in it to allow for better circulation (and for the oysters to drain a bit). I removed the oysters after smoking them for about 15 minutes at around 145 degress. As the temperature control in many smokers is difficult to measure, just keep an eye on them until they begin to shed some of their liquor, and begin to become more plump and round, under cooking them a bit is OK, because we're not finished with the process yet. The next step is actually to remove the oysters and place in a small pan then pour in enough extra virgin olive oil to completely cover them. Place back in the smoker at the same temperature for another hour or more, depending on how smokey you want them to become. Personally, when I taste the olive oil and get a slightly smokey (but not bitter) flavor, that's perfect. Just remove the pan and set aside to cool. Once they're near room temperature, I generally add some sliced raw onions, and a touch of white wine vinegar. You can store these in the refrigerator, or even can them.
Besides just eating them straight or with some good bread, there are numerous ways to to use them, including:
- Throw a few in with your seafood pasta dish
- Use them on top of salads
- Make a delicious sandwich with whatever strikes your fancy (I like them with artichoke hearts, roasted piquillo peppers and a slice of good cheese)
“Oysters are the most tender and delicate of all seafoods. The stay in bed all day and night. They never work or take exercise, are stupendous drinkers, and wait for their meals to come to them.”
Hector Bolitho 'The Glorious Oyster' (1960)