One of the fine folks over at the La Caja China Facebook page, asked: “Any tips for a clam bake in a La Caja China?”
Okay, I’ve done oysters and clams, both on the grill, and in the box. If you want a real “bake”…here’s what I would do:
Place a couple of disposable 1/2 sheet baking pans in the bottom of the caja, and put the Over Size Grill, 21″ x 40″ (http://www.lacajachina.com/over-size-grill-21-x-40/) on top. Fill the pans 1/2 way with boiling water, and close up the Caja China. Start you coals, as usual, and burn until ready to spread (you’re “pre-heating” your caja), carefully remove the lid and place your clams/oysters/lobsters, with split yams, par-boiled potatoes, shucked sweet corn, etc, on the interior grill.
Close her up, and roast 45 minutes to 1½ hours.
Be ready with your favorite melted butter recipe!
Now, let’s talk about oysters. I love oysters…I love ’em so much, I’ve written two novels and a cookbook about ’em (okay, so there was other stuff in the novels, but plenty about oysters, too! lol) Here’s my favorite grilled oyster recipe…
Twice Grilled Oysters…and a Little History
In 1854, while thousands were streaming into California in hope of finding gold, a young sailor named R.H. Espy was searching for his own treasure far up the northern coast. He became lost while navigating Washington’s then uncharted Shoalwater Bay and, in a heavy fog, Espy and his men feared they would paddle out to sea and never be seen again.
Lucky for them, the local Indian Chief spotted them and led them safely to shore.
On that shore, Espy found his treasure…in the form of vast clusters of native oysters, growing along the unclaimed mudflats of the bay. In San Francisco, hungry treasure-hunters paid fifty-dollars a plate for oysters, and soon Espy staked his claim and hit his mother-lode.
The oystermen were paid in gold, and Oysterville became the second richest city on the West Coast.
Today, tiny Oysterville is a National Historic District, and fresh oysters can still be found in Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay. A number of small, family owned farms spurn the use of dredging a pesticides used by the larger corporations, and harvest fresh, deliciously organic oysters daily.
My family and I visit Oysterville often, and we love everything about this tiny town that time forgot. So much so, in fact, that two of my novels are based there. We get our oysters, hand-harvested, directly from the bay.
Here’s a favorite recipe of mine for those who truly love oysters…
2 dz med-small fresh oysters, in shell
¼ cup Tillamook butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon pepper
Combine butter, garlic, and lemon pepper in pan. Heat until simmering, stirring often, remove from heat and set aside.
Heat grill to med-high and scrub oysters under cold water with a wire brush.
Place oysters, cup side down*, on grill and close the lid.
Reduce heat to med-low.
Remove the lid of each shell, cutting the oyster loose if necessary, and place cooked oyster in cup of shell, with about ½ of the remaining liquor.
Remove from grill and allow to cool until the shells can be handled. Serve.
Tip: To make a unique and delicious spread, use chilled slow grilled oysters in your favorite cream-cheese based oyster spread recipe.
*To keep oysters upright on the grill, roll tinfoil into 1-inch diameter tubes and make a ring for each oyster to set in.