My Oyster Obsession
I grew up with oyster roasts held regularly in every month that has an R. Early on, I had no fear of the slimy slug and I was pretty prissy. I have many memories of family and friends standing around a communal fire with the clusters (that is how our Sapelo River oysters come) roasting under a burlap bag on a sheet of metal over cinder blocks and a roaring fire pit. Such anticipation as the fellas squirt water on the bag and the oysters cook slightly. The smoke fills the air and permeates your clothes but it is so worth it. A roasted bounty thrown on a rectangle card table atop newspapers, The Brunswick News to be exact. Cocktail sauce, horseradish, saltines still in the sleeves and maybe garlic butter but really who needs it as they are salty perfection where we live.
As I have grown older, I still love an oyster roast of course but now my obsession has expanded and I don’t mean just in the culinary sense to Oysters Bienville or Oysters Rockefeller. What I mean is now I love to collect anything from oyster plates to oyster shell encrusted decorative pieces to silver oyster knives to oyster art.
When we travel to New Orleans, I pick up majolica oyster plates in vibrant colors. I have found that Steed Antiques on St. Simons often acquire special ones from estate sales and vendors. Appointments at Five in Athens stays on constant lookout for special ones for me. It is my husband Vance’s easiest gift route since he knows I treasure these relics that are often from the 1800s. I have this book and as I buy a certain category then I write next to the description where I found mine and the date. It has become a quest. One of the most rare in my collection was my least expensive purchase … now that’s a score.
In my kitchen in Athens, I just enhanced a grouping of oyster plates with two really wonderful paintings by Bellamy. I have long admired her work in The Store in Bluffton, South Carolina as well as in Coastal Living. Her oysters are just incredible.
The story of how I purchased the paintings is actually pretty neat. I emailed her ages ago asking about two I found on her website. I recently emailed her three days before a cocktail party we were hosting. I explained to Bellamy that I was entertaining and you know how you always do things you have put off when you have people coming over and was there any way she could get them there in time?
I received a box the afternoon of the party and a note saying, “Nothing like having a dinner party to make you want to get things just right! Bet you’re good at it!!!! Have fun and enjoy!!!!!! Here’s to a fabulous evening!! Thank you!!! Bellamy.”
The party was a blast and I admired my oyster paintings throughout the night while smiling about the kindred spirited southerner who painted them.
For good measure I will throw in an easy southern comfort recipe I like using my favorite ingredient.
- 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can beef broth
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 box long-grain wild rice (recommended: raw Mahatma Long-Grain and Wild Rice with seasoning)
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided
- 4 dashes hot sauce, plus more, to taste (recommended: Texas Pete)
- 2 quarts oysters, very well drained
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 cup finely minced fresh parsley leaves
- Red pepper flakes, for garnishing
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a saucepan, bring the beef broth and water to a boil. Add the rice, bring to a boil again, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 25 minutes. Drain any liquid remaining. Add 1/2 cup of the butter and hot sauce and stir; fluff with a fork.
Saute the drained oysters in 1/4 cup of the butter over medium-high heat until the edges curl, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the oysters with a slotted spoon; set aside. Place half of the rice in a greased 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Cover it with oysters and sprinkle with hot sauce and salt and pepper, to taste. Top with the remaining rice.
In a saucepan, heat the mushroom soup over medium heat. Add the half-and-half, onion powder, and garlic salt. Pour over the oyster mixture. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Garnish with parsley and red pepper flakes