Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Seasoned oysters wrapped in bacon: what a grand union

Rob Kasper

As soon as weather forecasters mention "frost on the pumpkin," I crave oysters.

By happy coincidence, the arrival of cool weather usually coincides with cooks convening in St. Mary's County, devising new ways to prepare Maryland's favorite mollusk. On a recent weekend, cooks at the National Oyster Cook-Off shared the stage of the St. Mary's County Fairgrounds with contestants in the National Oyster Shucking Championship.

William "Chopper" Young Jr. of Wellfleet, Mass., won the shucking contest, opening 24 oysters in an adjusted time of 2 minutes, 49 seconds, or 7 seconds per oyster.

Brendan Cahill, who lives in Lusby and is the chef and owner of the Old Field Inn in Prince Frederick, won the cooking contest with a dish called Oysters en Brochette.

Even if I employed my favorite oyster-opening trick - keeping the oysters in a warm oven until they pop open - I could not rival the speed of the champion shucker.

However, after looking over Cahill's winning recipe, I figured it was something I could tackle.

Basically, it consisted of seasoned oysters wrapped in bacon, skewered and cooked in butter, then dabbed with a spicy remoulade sauce.

The simplicity of the preparation appealed to me. That and the fact that I would eat almost anything - short of an oyster shell - if it were wrapped in bacon and cooked in butter.

"Oysters and bacon are a natural marriage," said Cahill when I spoke to him by phone at his restaurant. "Then I add some spices to heat the marriage up," he said. The dish, he said, would soon be on the restaurant's menu. "In Southern Maryland, the two dishes you have to have on your menu are crab imperial and oysters," he said.

The spices, Cahill added, were in a homemade Cajun seasoning. His mixture, he said, has "about 15 to 18 spices in it." The bottle of Cajun seasoning I bought at the grocery store had eight.

The Cajun seasoning was added both to the flour that coated the raw oysters and to the remoulade sauce that accompanied them at the dinner table.

The bacon Cahill used had been smoked over apple wood. I couldn't find that type in the grocery store, so I settled for the hickory-smoked variety. "Use the thin-sliced bacon," Cahill had told me. "Thick slices will overwhelm the oysters."

Giving the bacon a head start in cooking is a good idea, he said. Oysters cook faster than raw bacon, he said, and by precooking the bacon strips you even out the cooking times when they are together in the pan.

Having fetched the ingredients for this dish, I set to work in my kitchen. I drained a pint of Chesapeake Bay oysters. I dredged them in a mixture of 1 cup of flour and 3 tablespoons of Cajun spice.

Then I wrapped them in strips of bacon that were about two-thirds done.

I had never skewered an oyster before. They were slippery critters, but when confined by the bacon they were easier to nail with a skewer.

I had heated a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet and, if truth be told, I also had a little bit of bacon grease in there, left over from frying the bacon.

I cooked the skewered oysters quickly, over a medium fire. The skewers that held large oysters were cooked about three minutes a side. The skewers holding smaller oysters spent about two minutes per side in the pan.

"You don't want to overcook the oysters," Cahill had warned me. "They are done when the oysters shrivel up a bit and get plump."

The oysters and bacon splattered so much that I ended up putting a lid on the skillet. But I kept my eye on them, and when the oysters were shriveled at the edges and plump in the middle, I got them off the fire.

On my plate, the golden oysters, the russet bacon and the pale-yellow remoulade sauce looked like an edible autumnal painting.

In my mouth, they were stupendous. The rich meat of the oyster melded with crisp bacon, followed by the creamy and spicy flavors of the sauce.

A cold wind was blowing and the oyster-eating season was off to good start.

Oysters en Brochette with Remoulade Sauce
(Serves 6)


1 pint Maryland shucked oysters

1 cup Cajun flour (1 cup flour and 3 tablespoons Cajun spice, combined)

12 pieces precooked apple-wood-smoked bacon

6 wooden skewers

butter for sauteing (about 1 to 2 tablespoons)

lemon wedges for garnish

Remoulade sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 pinch Cajun spice (see note)

1 tablespoon capers

juice of 1 lemon

pinch fresh tarragon

For oysters: Lightly drain oysters, then dredge in Cajun flour and set aside. Cook bacon in pan or microwave until it is 2/3 done. Cut bacon into equal lengths approximately 3 inches long and wrap 1 piece around each oyster. Skewer 4 to 5 oysters on each skewer. Heat butter in a skillet and saute skewers 3 minutes per side. Drizzle remoulade sauce on plates and top with oysters and garnish with fresh lemon.

For sauce: Combine all ingredients and gently mix with a large spoon.

Note" Cahill's homemade Cajun spice has a more peppery bite than commercial versions. If you want more heat, add more spice and taste the sauce until you are satisfied.

Courtesy of Brendan Cahill of Lusby

Per serving: 311 calories, 8 grams protein, 22 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 32 milligrams cholesterol, 573 milligrams sodium


Here is another idea for bacon wrapped oysters:

Link to source:

Angels on Horseback

24 medium raw oysters, shucked and drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 clove garlic, minced
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce or Tabasco sauce (to taste)
6 slices lean bacon, cut in half
12 buttered toast rounds (optional)
Lemon wedges

In a bowl, mix the wine, garlic, salt, pepper, and hot sauce together. Add oysters and toss to coat; let marinate 20 minutes.

Cut the bacon in half and cook in a microwave oven for approximately 1 minute or pan fry until the edges begin to curl but the bacon is still flexible. Drain well.

Remove oysters from marinade, Wrap each oyster in a bacon strip and secure with a damp toothpick or cocktail pick. Place the bacon-wrapped oysters on a frying or oven proof pan. Cook, until the bacon is crisp and the edges of the oysters have curled, turning once to cook both sides evenly. Remove from oven or grill

NOTE: You may also cook these "angels" on an outdoor bbq or range top grill.

Serve with the cocktail pick, or the pick can be removed and the oyster placed on a buttered toast round. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 24 appetizers.

Buon appetito!

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