Mississippi oyster season opens: Recipes, cooking tips for shortened season

Published 5:16 pm Monday, October 2, 2017

Mississippi oysters are known for their plump, rich meat, and they have been a delicacy along the Gulf Coast since pre-colonial days.
The Eastern oyster harvested from reefs in the Mississippi Sound were plentiful for so many years and decades they were almost taken for granted as an endless local commodity. But that began to change after 2004, the last season of plenty, when 500,000 sacks of Mississippi oysters were harvested.
Natural disasters, including hurricane-damaging reefs and red tide, and man-made disasters like fresh water that follows from the Bonnet Carre Spillway into the Mississippi Sound north of the barrier islands – the 2008 opening of the spillway destroyed 85 percent of the state’s oysters – have taken a heavy toll, practically eliminating what was a must-have in Mississippi for more than a century.
The 2017 Mississippi oyster season opened today and the state’s Commission on Marine Resources will allow just 10,000 sacks to be harvested, down from 35,000 sacks in 2016.
The Mississippi Sound reefs remain under stress and need more time to repair, thus the limited 2017 season. But some oyster harvest is better than none, and it gets underway this week in the Biloxi Bay, which opened for harvest for the first time last year since 1964.
Reefs near Pass Christian will open on November 13 of this year.
Oystermen who are “tonging” can harvest 15 sacks this year, while those using “dredges” can get 25 sacks a day. But the total oyster harvest for Mississippi will be just 10,000 sacks – a tiny fraction of the harvest just more than a decade ago.
If you are among the lucky ones who get some of the fresh Mississippi oysters this shortened 2017 you may be looking for some good recipes.  We’ve got you covered.
Here are tips for cooking Mississippi oysters and some recipes thanks for our friends at Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources:
Tips for Cooking Oysters
In the Shell  Cook live oysters or clams in small pots so those in the middle are cooked thoroughly Boiling: After the shells open, boil live oysters or clams for another 3-5 minutes. Steaming: In a pot that is already steaming, cook live oysters or clams for 4-9 minutes.
Shucked Oysters Boil or Simmer for at least 3 minutes or until edges curl Fry at 3750F for at least 3 minutes Broil 3 inches from heat for 3 minutes Bake at 4500F for 10 minutes
Oyster Lasagna
1 lb. Smoked Oysters
1/4 lb. Lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons margarine
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped 1 cup garlic, finely chopped 6 oz tomato paste
2 1/2 cups stewed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 lb. cottage cheese
1/2 lb. Mozzarella cheese, grated
Cook noodles in 4 quarts of boiling, salted water approximately 15 minutes. Add oil to water so lasagna does not stick together. Drain and cool slightly. While noodles are cooking, melt margarine in a large skillet. Add onions, celery and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, chili powder, pepper, basil and oregano. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from stove and stir in smoked oysters. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish. Arrange ingredients in layers in baking dish – oyster sauce, noodles, cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese. Use 1/3 of each per layer and sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Batter Fried Oysters
2-1/2 dozen medium-sized Mississippi oysters; freshly shucked vegetable oil for deep frying
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water horseradish sauce to taste
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Drain oysters. Preheat oil in deep fryer to 375°C. Combine eggs, water and horseradish sauce. Combine flour, salt, pepper and cayenne in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Dip oysters in egg mixture, then in seasoned flour to coat. Place side by side but not touching on a platter and allow to dry for a few minutes. When ready to fry the oysters, dip again in seasoned flour. Fry in batches of 6 to 8 until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Drain oysters by placing on a platter lined with paper towels. Can be set in a 200°F oven until ready to serve. Yield: 4 servings.

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