By Mary Ann Himmelsbach
Oysters have been enjoyed for thousands of years. Indigenous people that summered along the New Jersey shores left behind huge piles of discarded oyster shells known as middens or hummocks that can still be seen today scattered throughout the salt marshes. For European settlers oysters were a nutritious staple that later became an important industry.
The oyster is a keystone species, disproportionally supporting an entire ecosystem.
• Oysters improve water quality in the bay. A single market-sized oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day.
• Cleaner water supports aquatic vegetation such as eelgrass.
• Empty oyster shells are used as foundation for reefs providing valuable habitat for fish and other sea life.
Today oysters are still a seafood favorite, enjoyed raw, grilled, steamed, stewed, fried, and many other delicious ways.
CHARGRILLED OYSTERS WITH LEMON GARLIC BUTTER SAUCE
Savory, smoky, and delicious, Chargrilled Oysters are the perfect appetizer or entrée. This recipe is quick and easy. So, fire up the grill and grab your shucking knife.
1/2 Cup unsalted butter
1/4 Cup onion, finely chopped
3 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoons liquid aminos or soy sauce
1 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning
A dash of hot sauce
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 Strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled into small pieces
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
Making the Topping Sauce:
This recipe comes together quickly. So, assemble the sauce first. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic to the melted butter and sauté until fragrant. Add liquid aminos, Cajun seasoning and hot sauce. Turn off heat, add lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir and set aside.
Shuck the Oysters:
Preheat grill to 400 degrees. Place oysters on the hot grill with the flat side of the shell up. Close the grill cover and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until the oysters begin to open. Carefully remove the hot oysters from the grill. Using a mitt, shuck the hot oysters. Keep each oyster in its deeper bottom shell.
Grilling the Oysters:
With oysters resting in half shells, spoon butter mixture over each oyster. Top with crumbled bacon and Parmesan cheese. Return oysters in half shells to the 400-degree grill balancing them so they lay flat without losing the oyster or the liquid. Cook with the lid open just until the cheese melts and edges of the oyster begin to curl. Transfer the oysters from the grill to a platter. Garnish and serve hot with your favorite cold beverage.