My love of oysters started at a very young age, most likely when I was around 10 or 11 and even my son Ben started liking them around the same time in his life too. In fact, just a few months before Katrina hit he fell in love with them, just as I had done as a young lad. There is nothing in the world like fresh Gulf oysters harvested from the salty Louisiana coastal waters.
Eating them on the half shell in raw form is one of the best ways to enjoy the salty delicacy. A really good restaurant will provide you with the set ups to make your own cocktail sauce and this includes a small ramekin, fresh large lemon wedge, ketchup, prepared horseradish, hot sauce and some Worcestershire sauce too. Of course the cocktail fork is the only tool you need to eat them, and make sure you have one of those too, oh, and some also like to have plenty of saltine crackers on hand to drape their cocktail sauce coated oyster over just before eating.
One of my favorite places in New Orleans that serves Oysters on the Half Shell fresh and Fried Oysters is Casamentos. They are known for having some of the best oysters in town and even own some of the oyster beds just off the Louisiana coastal waters. Be sure to bring cash as they do not accept credit cards, and they are usually closed in the hot summer months too, continuing a tradition before modern refrigeration that you only eat oysters in the months that have an “R” in them.
About a week ago I was able to find some Gulf coast oysters in the shell at Whole Foods Market by the each for .41 cents so I had to by some, I could not pass them up! Ended up with 2 dozen for just less than $10.00, this is a great deal since most restaurants will charge anywhere from $6.95 to $14.95 for a dozen shucked on the 1/2 shell. And boy were they good! It takes more time to shuck them than eat them, and I tell ya, a dozen of them goes quick once the cocktail sauce is made up fresh. Many years ago in the early 1990’s I can remember throwing a crawfish boil and I also bought a sack of oysters too and shucked them for the party. A sack typically is a gross or twelve dozen, so plenty of them to go around. Today, if given the opportunity, I could probably down three or four dozen of the little tasty gems.
So what are some other ways to enjoy the tasty bivalve? Have you ever eaten them grilled or charbroiled? You talk about some good eating! One of my favorite places for charbroiled oysters is Drago’s Seafood Restaurant located in Metairie, LA, which is about a 25 minute drive from downtown New Orleans. And they also now have a second location in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel which is in downtown New Orleans. They call themselves “Home of the Original Charbroiled Oyster“, and they are amazingly wonderful. The garlic and herb butter is drizzled over the raw half-shells on the grill and then a sprinkling of fresh grated Parmesan cheese is topped as they cook in the shell over the hot coals. I have yet to attempt duplicating them at home, but the garlic herb butter seems like your basic compound butter, I will have to try them soon if I can shuck them without eating them raw first!
Fried Oysters are always a treat either by themselves or with French fries and then the Fried Oyster Po-Boy is another favorite. Fresh crusty French bread smothered in mayonnaise with shredded iceberg lettuce, fresh sliced tomatoes, thin sliced pickles, and some Crystal hot sauce on top can’t be beat! Most local corner grocery shops in New Orleans with a deli will make an Oyster Po-Boy, but one of my favorites used to be the Streetcar Po-Boy shop on Carrollton Avenue, however, they closed up shop years ago for some unknown reason. The Oyster Loaf at Cassementos is good, but not a traditional Po-Boy, it is prepared on thick sliced toasted white bread, and is a good sandwich on it’s own, but not a Po-Boy!
One of my all time favorite soups is Oyster Artichoke Soup, which is another classic New Orleans dish! Some restaurants in New Orleans still feature this traditional soup as a soup du jour or on specials menus. Some other oyster preparations that have a fondness in my heart include Oysters Rockefeller, the appetizer made famous by Antoine Alciatore at his namesake Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans around 1899. Oysters Bayou Teche, as prepared by Chef Chris Canan at the Columns Hotel in the early 1980’s, and Oysters Casino, the variation on a theme similar to Clams Casino.