Food on the Strand: The Versatile Oyster
For many who have grown up on the coast, oysters are a fact of life. Whether you’re eating them, avoiding stepping on them or using their shells for decoration, the oyster is everywhere you look. Today, we’re going to talk about eating them, although believe me, you don’t want to step on an oyster cluster, especially barefoot.
For visitors or new transplants to the Grand Strand, the oyster can be a daunting thing. The sharp shell you have open carefully and the oyster’s “interesting” appearance might make people who have never tried them a bit squeamish. However, oysters can be a great treat, providing the foundations of oyster roasts and cookouts throughout the year, where a good time is spent gathering around tables and shucking, enjoying camaraderie and food.
A nice source of minerals, protein and B-12, oysters are low fat, low calorie, and very filling; they have literally been eaten by natives of the coasts for thousands of years. There are a variety of ways in which one can consume oysters. Here’s a few of the most popular around these parts:
Raw- straight up and served on the half shell with lemon and cocktail sauce; many purists believe this is the ONLY way to eat them. Try these at Dead Dog Saloon in Murrells Inlet.
Oyster Shooters- for the adventurous. Served raw in shot glasses with cocktail sauce, a splash of vodka and a squeeze of lemon juice. Salt Creek in Murrells Inlet has some really nice ones.
Fried- try Lee’s Inlet Kitchen in Murrells Inlet. Great breading and flavor that’s not too heavy.
Steamed- the most traditional. Steaming brings out a nice, light salty flavor, best served with cocktail sauce (homemade, if you can get it) and some butter and lemon. You don’t want to overwhelm the flavor. Many who swore they’d never touch one have been converted by a steamed oyster. The best ones locally come from McClellanville and Beaufort, SC. Try Seven Seas Seafood Market in Murrells Inlet, but make sure you get them washed, because let me assure you, that is a job that is not for the fainthearted, as it is some tedious work.
Oysters Rockefeller-served on the half shell with creamed spinach, baked cheese and bread crumbs and béarnaise sauce. Gulfstream Café in Garden City is a great place for these.
You can also make oyster stew, oyster dressing and a huge variety of southern inspired recipes from these simple mollusks. Use your imagination and happy oystering!