The longer this summer stretches on, the more I find I have oysters on my mind. Someday fall will arrive, peak oyster season will be close behind and this hot, rainy summer will be in the history books.
But I can't wait that long. This summer has been a rough one already, and I'm ready for a taste of one of the real blessings of living in Louisiana: the prodigious oyster harvest.
That’s not going to make up for a flooded car or a sky-high electricity bill, but sometimes the little things can help.
Oysters are available year round, and even the raw dozens I've been dispatching lately have been tasting fuller and fatter, a harbinger of the season to come.
But step away from the oyster bar for a moment, and break out the fryer, the broiler, the grill or the smoker and Louisiana oysters can be the main attraction any time. New Orleans has minted its own classic examples over the years. Oysters Rockefeller comes to mind first. Others qualify as modern classics, like Drago’s charbroiled oysters, snapping with garlic and butter, or Clancy’s fried oysters topped with melting hunks of Brie.
However, the beautiful thing about a talented corps of chefs, an abundant natural resource and an appreciative homegrown audience is that there’s always a new rendition or different twist to try. And lately, I’ve been on a bivalve bender.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. I shimmed down the blocked-off blocks of Bourbon Street to revisit Bourbon House for the fried oyster BLT. This BLT is not a sandwich but rather an artful arrangement of umami flavors, with fried oysters set between pork belly, under microgreens and over a sweet tomato jam.
Just across the street, the old school Felix’s oyster bar has some new tricks up its sleeve and one of them is a Buffalo oyster all lip-smacking tangy with Crystal hot sauce and butter.
Down in the Parish, Chalmette finally has its own oyster bar at MeMe’s Bar & Grille, and the grill part of the equation has been busy cooking up an array of oysters, including the Bangkok oysters, capped with a dose of fire-engine red sambal oelek, a Southeast Asian sauce that brings thick sweet heat.
On it goes: wood-fired oyster at Kenton’s, a smoked oyster gratin at DTB, the oysters Gentilly with creamed spinach at the Munch Factory, the fried oysters Goodenough at Carrollton Market, dabbed with béarnaise and crowned with bacon, the Maypop oysters, fried and planted over a swirling storm pattern of black soy aioli, the oysters Slessinger at Katie’s, broiled with bacon and spinach and, wait for it, tangy, melty Provel cheese.
Right, so some of this goes over the top, and could make you yearn for simplicity of an oyster with nothing more than lemon and a fork. It might even make you wistful for winter, when oysters (and New Orleans) are at their best.
If that’s the case, well just keep shucking, baby. Summer gets shorter with each passing day, and it just seems to go by a little faster when we count by the dozen.
Fried Oyster BLT
Bourbon House, 144 Bourbon St., 504-522-0111
Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, 739 Ibverville St., 504-522-4440
MeMe's Bar & Grille, 712 W. Judge Perez Dr., Chalmette, 504-644-4992
Wood Fired Oysters
5757 Magazine St., 504-891-1177
Charbroiled Oyster Gratin
DTB, 8201 Oak St., 504-518-6889
The Munch Factory, 1901 Sophie Wright Pl., 504-324-5372
Carrollton Market, 8132 Hampson St., 504-252-9928
Crispy Fried P&J Oysters
Maypop, 611 O'Keefe Ave., 504-518-6345
Katie's Restaurant, 3701 Bienville St., 504-484-0580