written by Carrie Cook Minns

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I was coerced into slurping down my first oyster during my teenage years. My friend and I huddled on the far end of her deck, avoiding the adult revelers at her family’s barbeque. The adults weren’t going to let us escape that easily, and taunted, “Oh, come on. You can’t grow up in the Northwest and not have slurped down an oyster.” There was even chanting, “Do it! Do it!” And so I did. Not an instant convert, I never contemplated eating another oyster until my sister married an oyster lover.

For his first Thanksgiving with our family, my brother-in-law brought a corn and oyster soufflé. Their family vacations (even their honeymoon) always seemed to take place near bodies of water with fresh oysters. This past summer, they returned from vacation with stories of the hundreds of oysters they had harvested and how my 9-year-old nephew slurped down as many oysters as his dad. Over the years, my interest has been piqued by my brother-in-law’s descriptions of his grilled oysters and the dipping sauces he serves alongside.

Being a seafood lover myself, I decided it was time to give oysters a second chance. With the help of my gas grill and various sauces, I finally understand why my sister, her boys, and her oyster-crazed husband never stray far from saltwater. When cooked on the grill, those daunting oyster shells politely pop their lids to reveal tender meat bathing in a briny broth. I simply add a spoonful of my sauce and then delight in miniature servings of the sea straight from its own vessels.

Grilled Oysters with
Toasted Sesame & Ginger Sauce

Servings: 12
Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 30 minute rest time
Cook time: 5-6 minutes

12 medium fresh oysters, shells scrubbed clean
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons shallot, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¼ cup soy sauce or tamari sauce
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ cup water
Optional: Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

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For the sauce:
In a medium saucepan, heat canola oil over medium-low heat. Add shallots and ginger and sauté about 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Whisk in soy-tamari sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil and dry mustard, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved. Pour in the ½ cup of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Once cooled, pour into a blender and blend until smooth. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before using so the flavors can meld.

For the oysters:
Pre-heat your gas grill to medium-high heat. Carefully place the oysters, flat side up, on the grate. Cover grill and cook until oysters begin to open slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Using tongs, oven mitts, and a paring knife, pry off the top shell, trying not to spill the liquid inside. (This is nearly impossible, but try.) Have a small platter nearby with a ½-inch layer of rock salt, kosher salt or rice spread across the bottom. This makes a good place to set and steady the oysters so they don’t tip and spill the liquid inside. Spoon a teaspoon or so of the sesame ginger sauce over the oyster meat, put the shell back on the grill and continue to cook another 1-2 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling. Pull oysters off the grill, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and enjoy immediately.