Attention, seafood lovers: Oysters are a hot opportunity.
Chefs are getting more creative with oysters. They’re full of flavour, oysters are a great source of protein and they add cachet and indulgence to menus.
And it’s not just oysters’ popularity that’s heating up. Serving oysters hot is one of today’s leading-edge seafood trends.
“More casual and upscale-casual restaurants are adding hot-oyster dishes to their menu and giving them a wide variety of new eating and flavour treatments,” says Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC.
Many factors account for expanded opportunities for menuing oysters:
Expanded fresh and frozen options make it easy to procure, store and handle oysters safely.
For fresh oysters, the old saying about eating oysters only in months with an ‘r’ in them isn’t true anymore. Thanks to improvements in cultivation, pasteurization and processing, oysters are always available to operators.
“Operators can purchase oysters in the half shell that have been shucked live and immediately blast frozen,” Ludwig notes. “They’re plump and sit nicely in the shell.”
Even better, hot oysters don’t require complicated, labour-intensive preparation.
“It’s more of a simple layering of flavourful ingredients,” Ludwig explains. “Cook oysters until they’re just warm. You don’t want to dry them out.”
A staple of coastal regions, oysters have swum in chowders, stews and ragus. Whether battered and fried, loaded into pies, stuffings and dips, or used to top off bruschetta, hot oysters have, in one form or another, long been a hot commodity. New ways to serve them hot are expanding ways to satisfy oyster lovers while adding depth to seafood menus.
“In our external research,” Ludwig says, “we see all sorts of examples for expanding the flavour possibilities via a combination of more aggressive cooking methods as well as creative sauces and toppings.”
Wood-grilling. Top raw oysters with melted flavoured butter or oil—or liqueur—and char-grill just long enough for the heat to permeate the shell.
Oven-roasting. Briefly bake oysters at a very high temperature in a convection oven, wood-fired pizza oven or regular oven. Top with a breadcrumb crust to keep oysters plump and juicy.
Pan-smoking. Add sawdust, wood chips, hay or straw to the bottom of a small cast-iron pan, top with oysters, and smoke briefly for a dish with a “smoked-in-the-serving-dish” presentation.
Pan-frying. Remove oysters from the half shell; reserving the shell.
Roll oysters in flour or breadcrumbs, pan-fry, then return to the shell for saucing, topping or garnishing. Choose pan-frying over deep-frying, Ludwig advises, for the sake of menu differentiation.
Flavour options for hot oysters are practically limitless.
Crusts and crumbles.
Sprinkle these on oysters before roasting.