Barely Grilled Oysters with Sherried Garlic Butter
I have somehow lucked into a Christmas tradition that mirrors itself in gatherings with both my family and my husband’s: the oyster roast. With the Taylor clan (my family), it’s a relatively new custom that’s going on its fourth year. We rent a beach house in Navarre Beach, Florida, and my parents, my brother and his family, and my family of four get together. On my husband’s side, the large extended family convenes at my brother-in-law’s house in Wiggins, Mississippi, about a half-hour north of the coast. Jamie, my husband’s younger brother, has an amazing party setup in his backyard, where an old Argosy RV (that was reportedly once Grandpa Jones’ touring bus) is surrounded by a gravel yard, fire pit, and string lights. The much-anticipated highlight of both assemblies is the oyster roast, which takes place over a grill for convenience.
At either place, we’ll get a sack of Gulf oysters and set out a bunch of oyster knives and gloves, and everyone will roll up their sleeves and start shucking. Any political or philosophical differences melt away as we pry open oyster after oyster. It’s a great bonding experience where everyone works together on a shared (and delicious) goal, the grownups laughing, sharing shucking tips, drinking bourbon, and telling stories to the soundtrack of Christmas tunes, while the kids run around and make fun of us. We definitely slurp down our fair share of bivalves before they make it to the grill (kids included—or, rather, especially the kids), but then the ones that do get a kiss of heat are raved over.
We prefer grilling just until the oysters are warmed, keeping the texture more in line with the buttery nature of raw ones. And they’re always, mandatorily, slathered with garlic butter. This version is, I must say, just insanely delicious because the garlic butter includes a good splash of sherry, which imparts nutty depth that takes the oysters over the top. Round after round of half shells will come off the grill, and people will throw their heads back in ecstasy as they half die of happiness.
My recipe here is for a manageable two dozen, though in reality our celebrations involve far more than that. You can easily double, triple, or quadruple the sherried garlic butter to accommodate however many hungry cousins, aunts, uncles, or friends you want to make happy. And don’t be afraid to put people to work shucking. At this time of year, especially, everyone wants to pitch in, to get involved in a hands-on way, to put their hearts and their effort into experiences that bring joy to the ones they love.