Steamed oysters with horseradish, lemon and shallot

Willapa Bay oysters netted on ice from Linda Brand Seafoods at the Portland Farmers Market 

Willapa Bay oysters netted on ice from Linda Brand Seafoods at the Portland Farmers Market 

I've spent many an evening in Oysterville, Washington, grilling big Willipa Bay oysters over an open fire, patiently waiting for them to open, even while they spit sea water and bits of shell across the grill.

Never unsatisfied with that experience, I have reimagined the technique for indoor use with a method for steaming the oysters open gently, which is easily monitored and prevents them from drying out as sometimes happens with live fire.  Cooking firms up the oysters, and makes them easier to shuck since the top shell pops open once the oyster is set, or firm. In most cases, the shell can be removed by hand, or unhinged with the help of a butter knife. 

Most oyster recipes require preparing an accompaniment (Mignonette, for example) ahead of time; this one is finished after the steamed oyster is popped open, with a shower of finely minced shallot and parsley, lightly shaved (using a microplane) lemon zest and fresh horseradish. 

For the absolute freshest selection of Pacific Northwest shellfish, I recommend Taylor Shellfish Farms in Washington. They will ship overnight anywhere in the United States. I love their Shigoku oysters, which are excellent both raw and grilled.  

Makes enough garnish for one dozen oysters


1 large shallot, finely minced
1 large lemon, zested using a microplane
1-inch fresh horseradish root, peeled and grated using a microplane
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black peppercorns 


Add two inches of water to a large pot with a tight fitting lid. Place a collapsible steaming basket in the pot. Bring the water to a boil and the arrange as many oysters as possible, without stacking or overlapping them, in a circle up to the edge. of the basket Cover the pot and steam the oysters for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they open. Remove the oysters from the basket with tongs and use your hands to loosen their top shells. Discard any excessive water that may have made its way into the shell, or slurp it up for a true taste of the sea.

Use a small spoon to place a small amount of shallot, lemon zest and shredded horseradish on each oyster, then lightly drizzle them with olive oil on top of each oyster. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and, if the oysters are not overly briny, a touch of flaky salt. Serve immediately.