Get the Party Started

Oysters = Celebration


Baked Oysters – Italian Style

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto


There’s no better way to launch the holidays than with a platter of succulent oysters. The season starts early at my house with my husband’s birthday in early November. A couple dozen Italian-style roasted oysters is always on the menu. Fresh oysters are always within arm’s reach here in Seattle as the Pacific Northwest ranks as the number one oyster-producing area in our nation. (Reference 1).

As with all seafood, freshness is imperative so purchase oysters from a reputable fishmonger with a brisk business. I head straight to a Taylor Shellfish Farm outlet in Seattle or a trusted local seafood shop. Once shucked, the oysters should be surrounded by “liquor” which keeps them plump and moist.  If you have a concern about freshness, ask for the harvest date as they should be consumed within 10 days of being out of the water. (Reference 1)

Shucking is a practiced art and can be hazardous to a novice. I rely on an experienced “oyster shucker” to open my oysters right before roasting time. If you want to learn to open oysters, get a lesson from a pro, perhaps your fishmonger and invest in a quality oyster knife and a sturdy glove.

This simple recipe has evolved over the years. Simple is the operative word because you want a topping that doesn’t overpower the oysters. Like tasting “terroir” in wine you want to taste the unique local nuances of the oyster.

Oysters feed by filtering the water in which they live, processing up to 50 gallons a day, so their color, flavor and even shape reflect the water conditions, including the temperature,  algae, mineral content as well as the  harvest season. Of course different species of oysters have specific characteristics and connoisseurs argue over the merits of East coast versus West coast oysters and those from one micro-location or another. (References 2, 3)

In the United States 95% of the oysters consumed are farmed. Farmed fish often have a bad reputation however the esteemed Monterrey Bay Aquarium gives farmed oysters a “Best Choice” designation, deeming oyster farms in the U.S. and throughout the world well-managed and producing a sustainable product. (Reference 4).

Party foods are not usually eaten for their nutritional benefits but oysters could be! A 3 ½ ounce portion of cooked Pacific oysters have 19 grams of protein, only 5 grams of fat, (1.65 grams of omega 3 fats) and are an excellent source of the vitamins A, riboflavin, niacin, B12 and a variety of key minerals including iron, zinc, magnesium, copper and selenium. (Reference 5).

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Roasted Oysters – Italian Style

If you have fresh herbs on hand, substitute 1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped herb for each teaspoon of dried herb. I like a blend of rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano or marjoram.

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely chopped shallot
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 cups dried homemade bread crumbs*
6 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried Italian herb seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
24 to 30 large oysters on the half shell
Drizzle olive oil into medium nonstick skillet and place over medium-low heat. Add shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until shallot softens. Remove from heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, prosciutto, parsley, green onion, lemon juice, Italian herb seasoning, red pepper and freshly ground black pepper. Preheat oven to 425 °. Place oysters on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over oysters. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, just until edges of oysters curl away from shell. Makes 24 to 30 oysters.
*Use a rustic, unsweetened whole grain bread. Slice and remove the crust. Pulse in a food processor to make fine crumbs. Spread on a baking sheet and place in a 350° oven for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until lightly toasted.
1. Pike Place Market Seafood Cookbook, by Braiden Rex-Johnson, Ten Speed Press, 1997.
2. Seafood Health Facts
4. Monterrey Bay Aquarium
5. Oyster nutrition facts from The Food Processor, ESHA Research, sources from the USDA.

© 2014 Lorelle Del Matto

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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