Last fall our good friends Christopher McLaurin and Devin Crock hosted an oyster roast for friends and family at their home here in Durham. It began what I came to call "The Fall of the Roast" wherein I attended no fewer than six oyster roasts throughout the season. Needless to say, I am now addicted to oyster roasts, and being the good enabler that I am, I have decided to share what I've learned with you. What follows is my foolproof* guide to hosting the perfect oyster roast. Now get shuckin'!
1. Buy oysters. A shitload of oysters. You want fresh, quality oysters, so don’t call your nearest chain grocery store. Google a local seafood purveyor, or ask a reputable local restaurant. If you don’t live in a coastal state, stop here. Just don’t host an oyster roast. Sorry Nebraska.
2. Buy accompaniments, and don’t get fancy. Saltines. Lemons. Hot sauce. Butter. End of list. This is no time for your fancy mignonette.
3. Oh, buy some oyster knives too. You don’t want to go at those shells with your cooking knives. And some burlap. You’ll find out why.
4. Dig a pit. Start a fire. MacGyver a grill above that fire. I suggest cinder blocks and wire (chicken wire works fine).
5. While the fire is going, set up a table nearby and cover it with newspaper. Bonus points if the paper has pictures of Donald Trump’s face. On one end of the table put bowls of lemon wedges, melted butter, bottles of hot sauce, the saltines, and a few rolls of paper towels. Leave the other side clear.
6. Soak the burlap in water. Get it good and wet.
7. By this time you should have a decent amount of hot coals. You want a hot fire, but not a lot of flame, so add logs sparingly. Dump some of the oysters onto the wire (enough to make a single layer), cover with the wet burlap, and let them roast, checking every few minutes. The goal here is not to cook them per se, but to essentially steam them just enough to get them to barely open. Once you see about 60-70% of the oysters have opened, carefully (hot mitts!) lift the wire screen with the oysters off the fire and dump them on the clear end of the table.
8. Use the oyster knives to pry open the shells and cut away the oyster, and eat eat eat! Suck them right out of the shell, douse them in hot sauce, pour them onto saltine and drizzle with lemon juice and butter. Your choice.
9. Actually, your guest’s choice. You’ve got more oysters to roast! Repeat until all oysters have been roasted.
10. Oh yeah, don’t forget to buy a few kegs of beer and maybe set up a Bloody Mary bar. This probably should have been Step One, but I assume you already were on top of the booze situation.
*In no way is this foolproof.