Grilling season is upon us, so I wanted to share an easy and elegant grilled meal that makes use of one of my favorite things about spring: chive blossoms. I started growing my own chives in containers about two years ago, and I was delighted when I found out that you can eat the flowers. This year, my plants went particularly flower crazy, so I had to figure out how to use the blossoms for more than just making vinegar or topping salads. My answer: make chive blossom mignonette! I didn’t stop there though; I also had to put that mignonette on something delicious, so I of course thought of oysters. To make the whole thing into more of a meal, I also added some simple but super tasty grilled shrimp to the mix.
I’m an oyster fiend, but I came to like oysters rather late in life. I had actually never tried one until I moved to Washington about five years ago. But let’s just say that I’ve more than made up for lost time. In my humble opinion, oysters taste better in their own juices with a squirt of lemon on top or paired with a simple mignonette. Mignonettes are, as the name implies, French in origin. A classic mignonette contains cracked pepper, minced shallots, and vinegar. My only twist on the classic was to add the chive blossoms, which have a similar flavor profile to shallots. My preferred vinegar when making mignonettes is red wine vinegar, since I feel that it adds subtle hint of sweetness that goes really well with raw oysters.
It’s hard to get fresh seafood in the small town where I live, but we are lucky enough to have a fish truck drive all the way from the Seattle area every week to bring us really good-quality seafood. The Fish Folks, as they call themselves, are a lovely family who just took over the business from the previous owner, Dale. Both “generations” of fish folks are incredibly passionate about the freshness of their seafood and happy to convey a lot of useful information about their more unusual products. This week they were selling Kumamoto oysters, which is one of my absolute favorite varieties. They tend to have rather irregular but pretty shells and a very mild flavor that perfectly balances briny and sweet. I chose to get my oysters unshucked because I wasn’t going to be preparing them until later in the day, but feel free to get them shucked if your local fish monger or grocery store gives you the choice. Shucking oysters is not for the faint of heart; my husband ended up slicing his thumb pretty badly while shucking these, and he’s had some experience. He’s fine now, but if you are wondering why there aren’t any shots of the oysters and the shrimp in platter together it is because I was running around trying to help him stop the bleeding while also photographing this post.
Now, about those shrimp. I have to admit that I’m a lazy griller, so I lean towards things that take about 5-15 minutes to grill. The shrimp featured here are perfect for people like me because they take 5-6 minutes to cook, freeing me to enjoy the long summer evenings with my friends rather than standing over the grill the whole time. I also have to admit that this is not my recipe; I’ve had horrible luck when it comes to grilling shrimp in the past, so I went to the place where I go to fix all my culinary woes: Serious Eats. Kenji López-Alt has this wonderful article explaining that you need to remove as much moisture from the shrimp before you grill them so that they turn out plump and delicious. I’ve made some small changes to his original recipe which is why I’m including my own version here, but I strongly recommend that you take the time to read the article. It will change how you grill shrimp forever.
The main changes that I made to Kenji’s recipe were to use cilantro instead of parsley just because that’s what I had lying around. I also dramatically cut the amount of salt in the recipe not only because I used less shrimp, but also because it did seem like too much. My shrimp came out perfect with just a teaspoon of salt, but feel free to play around with the recipe until it works for you. Just keep in mind that the salt is key for drawing moisture out of the shrimp, so don’t eliminate it completely or it might impact the texture.
If you’ve never had to peel or devein shrimp, let me quickly explain how it’s done. I usually grab the shrimp by the legs and pull those off first. Then, I split the shell from the section where the legs were attached and try to take the whole thing off. It will usually come off in one or two sections if you do it this way. I decided to remove the tails, but then wished I had left them on. They make for better presentation and are useful if you are trying to grab shrimp off a platter. To devein them, you would first peel them and then take a pairing knife and split the shrimp down the back, from top to tail. You should see a thin black line, which is what you want to remove. I do it by either rinsing the shrimp under cold water or by poking at the vein with my knife. You can also get your fish monger to do all of this for you if necessary.
What’s your favorite thing to grill? Leave a comment below!
Garlicky Grilled Shrimp and Raw Oysters with Chive Blossom Mignonette
These raw oysters with a chive blossom mignonette and garlicky grilled shrimp take only minutes to throw together and will wow your guests.
- For the mignonette:
- A dozen of your favorite oysters
- ¼ cup of chive blossoms, picked off the flower
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- A pinch of salt
- For the shrimp:
- 1 ½ pounds of jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- Step 1 To make the mignonette: Cut the chive blossoms and clean them by putting them in a small bowl with cold water and swishing them around. Pick the individual blossoms and put them in a bowl. Put all the ingredients for the mignonette in the same bowl with the blossoms and mix everything gently with a fork. Let sit at room temperature for an hour for the flavors to meld before using. Serve it alongside raw oysters and encourage your guests to spoon a bit of it over each oyster before eating it.
- Step 2 To make the shrimp: In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Skewer the shrimp and set them over a baking pan or baking sheet so that the shrimp hang suspended without touching the pan. Stick them in the fridge for an hour before grilling to dry them out.
- Step 3 In the meantime, combine half the minced garlic and 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Step 4 Get the grill ready by lighting a full chimney of charcoal. Wait until all the charcoal is lit and starting to ash over before you dump it in your grill. Try to get all the coals on one side of your grill to create a hot spot. This will ensure that the shrimp will cook fast and evenly.
- Step 5 When you are ready to grill the shrimp, brush them with the oil and garlic mixture. Put them on the hot side of the grill and cook them for 5-6 minutes turning them halfway through. They should look opaque and nicely charred when they’re done.
- Step 6 Place the rest of the garlic, cilantro, and 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in a medium bowl and set it aside. When the shrimp are ready, take them off the skewers and put them in the bowl. Toss everything together and add pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Note: My grilled shrimp recipe is minimally adapted from Kenji López-Alt’s Grilled Shrimp with Garlic and Lemon.