Award-winning Charleston chef Mike Lata proves it's never too chilly for a party, especially with oysters at their peak. We'll tell you everything you need to know-from roasting to recipes-to host your own.
Charleston chef Mike Lata believes "There's nothing like an oyster roast in the winter to warm you up inside out. His notable
restaurant FIG is one of our region's top eateries. Mike looks forward to this time of year when he can kick back with friends to fortify
themselves with warm oysters and Shoo-Fly Punch, his potent bourbon-based toddy.
Join the fun by creating your own neighborhood roast. Follow our simple instructions for building a pit and cooking the oysters. We've also included recipes for two of Mike's favorite dipping sauces and his Shoo-Fly Punch. Even if you're landlocked, this festive idea gives you an authentic taste of the Lowcountry in your own backyard.
Before your party gets underway, you'll need a few items for cooking and shucking the oysters. For planning, figure a bushel (about 50 pounds) for every 5 people. For the actual roast you'll also need a large piece of sheet metal (we pefer one that's about 3 1⁄2 feet square and 1⁄8 to ¼ inch thick), four standard-sized masonry blocks, and a burlap sack or beach towel. You'll also need oyster knives (thick paring knives will do), some heavy gloves (thick, cotton-lined rubber gloves are best), and a trash can lined with a heavy-duty plastic trash bag. Once you have these items you'll be all set!
If you’re lucky enough to harvest your own oysters, give them a good rinse with a water hose to remove any mud. Oysters from a purveyor or seafood shack most likely have already been washed.
Build a fire appropriate to the size of your sheet metal, and position one masonry block vertically at each corner. (Some folks prefer a burner and propane tank in lieu of a wood fire.) Place the sheet metal on top of the masonry blocks just as the flames begin to die down. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the metal—if the water sizzles, you’re ready to go. Add oysters in a single layer.
Cover oysters with a soaking-wet burlap sack or thick beach towel. Cook oysters 8 to 10 minutes. (The shells will open about ¼ to ½ inch.) If you prefer lightly steamed oysters, stick to the lower end of the time range. Transfer the oysters with a clean shovel or large metal dustpan to a newspaper-lined table. Allow the metal to reheat; then repeat the procedure with more oysters, adding more wood as needed.
Pry open oysters using an oyster knife, discarding the empty half shells. Run the knife under the oyster meat to release it. Serve with dipping sauce.
Wash down your oysters with Shoo-Fly Punch, a bourbon-based cocktail with a pop of spicy ginger and fizz from ginger beer.