For years I had been hearing about Char-Broiled Oysters at a restaurant in Metairie, Louisiana just outside New Orleans. Since I rarely have transportation to get around, especially out to Metairie, I usually busy myself with French Quarter restaurants. This one kept nagging me though. When I was a kid Char-Broiled was all the rage. Burgers, steaks, chicken, etc. as a matter of fact my Mom's friend Francis used to refer to it as "Char-BOILED", which always brought a smile to my face. So the thought of char-broiling oysters intrigued me even though oysters have never been my favorite bivalve. OK, I like them fine, it did take me a while though to come around.
My Dad LOVED oysters. The old man could and would go through a few pints a week sometimes... he also liked oysters (sorry I couldn't resist). He would buy them, dip them in an egg wash, roll them in cracker crumbs, and pan fry them. This was his favorite thing to make at home. He loved them so much he could barely resist eating all of them raw on crackers before he got them fried. Now I wouldn't eat them back then, they looked nasty and I couldn't get around the texture, or lack thereof, but I sure put a hurtin' on some at Drago's.
My buddies Noonan, the cruise director on the Triumph, and assistant cruise director Cory, met me and off we went to try something new. The only thing I knew to order was the oysters. So we got a dozen for an appetizer. Well once we ate one each we immediately ordered more. Good golly, Miss Molly were those things GOOD! Char-broiled in their half shell, bathed in a spicy butter, and topped with Parmagiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses, broiled to perfection, brought out still bubbling... da-yammm. I now have a newest, favoritest food in the whole wide world. They are served with pieces of French bread that you dip into the leftover, buttery oyster-nectar. The only problem with these oysters is that you want to eat them as soon as they come out and you can get a severe burn from the savory Napalm they're bathed in.
Noonan and Cory were going at them as hard I was when our entreés arrived. We barely noticed there was other food on the table. How could we turn our attention away from these beautiful, hot, buttery, crusty, oysters? They were like crack on the half-shell. It wasn't until we ran out and our eyes cleared, that we realized we had more food. Now the meal just got more interesting.
The boys had ordered the Lobster Lunch Special. A fair sized lobster served with a salad and some red potatoes. The crustaceanally challenged Cory had to download a Marine Forensic Pathologist's chart to figure up how to open his up to get at the goodies. He eventually found his way with some prompting from Noonan and I and was merrily on his claw-crackin' way. Noonan however evidently knew his way around the lobster and wasted no time peering around its nether regions for pockets of tasty tail-meat.
For my appetizer I got Mama Ruth's Seafood Gumbo. It was a dark maroon which indicated a dark roux and tomatoes. Truly a Creole gumbo. Lots of nice shrimp, crab and quite a few oysters, (more than most have). It was nice, tasty, and definitely wasn't institutional gumbo like is served in so many New Orleans restaurants now. It is one of the better ones in town. Now you Cajuns out there be warned, it's got tomatoes in it. I'm just sayin'.
For my entreé, I had ordered a Barbecued Shrimp Po-Boy. Now, when I say barbecue, I don't mean the traditional "barbecue" but New Orleans style sautéed shrimp. Buttery, garlicky, and savory from wonderful spices, these shrimp were piled high on that crusty french bread. It was a great po-boy and wonderful accompaniment for the gumbo and oysters. All in all, it was a great meal and a fun day trying out a new restaurant.
About Drago's, Drago Cvitanovich has a wonderful restaurant here in Metairie as well as his place in downtown at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel. I had been hearing about it for some time, but this was my first opportunity to get out there. The service was great, ice tea was tasty, and everyone was very friendly, but I cannot say enough about the char-broiled oysters. They are totally amazing as well as simple in their preparation. As for a recipe, I found this one below at Gumbo Pages. Enjoy making these, but try your darnedest to get out to Drago's when in the neighborhood, it is well worth the trip.
Drago-Like Char-Broiled Oysters
32 large oysters, on the half shell, disconnected.
1 cup salted butter
2 tbs garlic (minced)
½ tsp black pepper
¼ cup each Parmagiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses (grated)
½ cup parsley (minced)
Heat your charcoal or gas grill up to MED/HI. Melt the butter with the garlic and pepper in a sauté pan. Mix the cheeses in a small bowl. Spoon some of the melted butter mix onto each oyster. Add a pinch of the cheeses and parsley to each oyster and place them on the grill. Grill the oysters until they are hot, bubbly, and crusty on the top.
*You can use your broiler in your oven as well if a grill is not available. Save your shells and then next time you can buy already shucked oysters and save a little money. You just need to wash them like you wash a dish.