Almost Oysters Gilhooley, by Rhoda Boone

At the end of the road in the small gulf town of San Leon, Texas, there is a special oyster shack called Gilhooley’s.  It is one of my parents’ favorite oyster dives and has a strong cult following, yet somehow in my trips home from New York to Houston (despite my careful planning) I still have not managed to see it for myself.  I’ve heard stories of the crusty regulars and the “NO KIDS” sign nailed to the tree outside, but most importantly, of the Oysters Gilhooley, the house specialty that draws people to this obscure place.

These oysters are topped with worcestershire, garlic, and parmesan cheese and are roasted on the half shell over a pecan and oak fire pit.  One big contributor to the reported deliciousness of the oysters is the long standing relationship between Phil Duke, Gilhooley’s owner and operator since 1987, and Misho Ivic, a Croatian born oysterman who founded Misho’s Oyster Company in San Leon in 1977.  If you’ve never tried a gulf coast oyster, you can expect a meaty plumpness, slight brininess, and sweet finish.  They are my personal favorite, but I’m pretty sure to enjoy any fresh oyster that’s served close to where it comes from.

A series of events took place during my last visit that once again foiled my attempts to taste Oysters Gilhooley.  My parents finally took pity on me and we made up our own version over the charcoal embers of my dad’s Old Smokey.  Although the ambrosial delights of the famous shack still elude me, at least we had fun shucking oysters and sipping cold white wine in our own backyard.  See the recipe below, pick up some fresh local oysters, and try it for yourself!

Recipe: Oysters Grilled in Their Own Juices

Serves 8

2 dozen local oysters

Tabasco sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 lemons

Carefully open oysters with an oyster knife. Be sure to keep as much of the liquor as possible and discard the top shell. Top each oyster with a squeeze of lemon, small cube of butter (less than 1/8 tablespoon), and a dash of Tabasco. Place the oysters in the remaining bottom shell directly onto a medium-hot grill and let them poach until they plump up and the edges start to frill, about 10-15 minutes. Serve hot with slices of lemon.

If you do not have access to a grill, similar results can be achieved by broiling the oysters in an oven.

Rhoda cooking a big batch of succotash for "family meal" at the French Culinary Institute

Rhoda Boone is a student at New York’s French Culinary Institute, as well as my good friend and the person who keeps Lucid Food running shipshape. After many months of deboning, reducing, and flambéing, in a few short weeks she will graduate with a degree in Classic Culinary Arts, and then the world will be her oyster. A grilled oyster, perhaps. Many thanks to Rhoda for the recipe and photos.

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