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When I was told they served 3,000 a night, I said yes.

Yes, to grilled oysters.

I watched a team shuck large burlap bags filled with oysters the entire time I was at the Baton Rouge restaurant that serves them grilled, fried, stewed and raw. Served bubbling hot-off-the-grill, I understood why they were the ‘house special.’

Jonathan Swift, an 18th-century satirist once wrote, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” Cooked or raw, there doesn’t seem to be many middle of the road folks. People either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Though we’ve been eating them for thousands of years.

The thing about oysters is fresh is best. The restaurant where I ate oysters receives daily delivery. In land-locked Wyoming, oysters have a trek. Refrigeration preserves freshness, but these saltwater bivalves, should be eaten within a few days of purchase. Refrigeration allows us to enjoy oysters year round, dispelling the myth that oysters should only be eaten with months that contain the letter R.

A tightly closed shell or shells that close when tapped are signs of freshness. If the shell is open, the oyster is dead and should not be eaten. Oysters should smell fresh, like the ocean, not fishy. In the water, oysters filter water, which improves water quality. As a food source, they are a good source of protein, calcium, niacin and iron.

Eating raw oysters does come with a food safety risk. Raw oysters contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus can be life threatening, even fatal for some with liver disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system. Vibrio vulnificus, bacteria that thrives in warm coastal water, can’t be seen, smelled or even tasted. Exposure to heat at a high enough temperature kills the bacteria.

If you don’t want to risk eating, raw oysters, here are guidelines for cooking them:

  • Boil or simmer shucked oysters for at least 3 minutes or until the edges curl.
  • Fry at 375°F degrees for at least 3 minutes.
  • Broil 3 inches from heat for 3 minutes.
  • Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes.
  • This recipe is ideal on a summer evening. It’s quick and easy to cook. With salad and crusty bread to mop up the juices, you may do as we did and repeat the next night.

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Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author of “Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being.” Visit her website www.LiveBest.info for every day food solutions.

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