All across the Gulf, oystermen are harvesting their first batch of the fall oysters, a crop we’ve all been waiting for. We got a start on checking out Alabama’s finest mollusks over the weekend at the 5th Annual Oyster Cook-Off at The Hangout. Raw, Rockefeller, Cajun. Dear readers, we eat them for you.
More than 50 chefs from Alabama served their finest variations on mollusks while bands including Birmingham’s alt-country Banditos played in The Hangout’s courtyard. (Check this band out. Seriously.)
But back to the main course. Among our favorite oysters were those topped with local produce. Montgomery Railyard Brewing Company, opened in September, served their Oysters Rockefeller with collards and prosciutto.
Chef Wesley True (who recently opened TRUE, also based in Montgomery), served his oysters with locally grown mustard greens, pistachio and a dollop of Belle Chevre goat cheese. True, who in 2011 received a James Beard nomination for “Best Chef In The South,” said of the greens, “I got them from a farmer selling them off the side of the road.” Just how we like them.
Alabama is the largest processor for the Eastern oyster (found on the East Coast and the Gulf Coast). And though over the past few years the industry has experienced challenges from factors like drought and oyster predators, as a region the industry is resilient, says Bill Walton, Ph.D., an oyster expert and professor at Auburn University’s College of Agriculture.
“We’re having a longer, more productive oyster season on our public reefs than we had last year, so we’re going in the right direction,” Dr. Walton says.
For that, and for the Hangout hosting an event that showcases the creativity of our Southern chefs, we’re glad.
Now, pass the beer and let us know: how do you take your oysters?
Host Your Own Oyster Roast