Football season is outdoor kitchen season! Time to light the pit or Belgard brick oven and prepare to kick off an afternoon or evening of backyard tailgating. And, although the traditional fan favorites of hamburgers and hotdogs will always have a place at the backyard tailgate bash, today’s gourmet outdoor cooks are always looking for unique ideas to take tailgating to the next level.
For gourmet outdoor tailgating fare straight from the food mecca of New Orleans, try grilling or baking with Schwing’s SOS Shells. The idea for SOS Shells was born from the New Orleans tradition of chargrilling oysters on the halfshell over an open flame. A popular dish in many New Orleans restaurants, the practice was time-intensive and difficult to duplicate at home until local restaurateurs, the Schwing family, created their stainless steel version of the oyster shell.
Highly conductive, dishwasher safe, oven safe, grill safe and reusable, SOS Shells offer the opportunity for really interesting outdoor kitchen creations, limited only by the imagination. Originally designed for chargrilling oysters, they can actually be used for all sorts of recipes and work extremely well in tailgating situations by allowing for individual portion sizes to go directly from the pit to the plate.
Now, for some New Orleans-style chargilling!
The traditional chargrilled oyster recipe is fairly easy to duplicate — the secret is in the sauce, which can be made ahead of time and even refrigerated or frozen for future chargrilling. On a stove, combine equal amounts of butter and olive oil with lots of pressed garlic and your favorite seasonings. Originally, the recipe called for simple Italian seasoning, but many restaurants have put their own unique spin on the concept by experimenting with different seasoning combinations. Feel free to mix it up with your own favorite flavors. For a lower-fat version, reduce the butter and oil by half and replace with beer. Cook the sauce over medium high heat for a few minutes to allow the flavors to fuse and any alcohol to cook out.
Once the sauce is prepared, load the shells with oysters, shrimp, veggies, or whatever ingredients you like. Place the shells on the grill at medium to high heat, spoon sauce into each shell, and cook until done. For shrimp, look for a warm pink color. For oysters, look for the edges to get curly. Throughout the cooking process, you may want to purposely spill some of the sauce onto the fire to get it to flame up and touch the food. This is what will give your recipes that chargrilled flavor. To follow the traditional recipe, when the oyster edges become curly, top each one with shredded parmesan cheese and allow it to melt before removing it from the pit. Some restaurants also finish with finely chopped scallions or parsley. Again, feel free to get creative.
Remember that once the shells have been placed on the pit, they will quickly become extremely hot and cannot be handled by hand. For safe handling, use tongs to move your shells around the pit or to place them onto a plate. Remind your guests that the shells will be very hot to the touch.
For a finishing touch for your chargrilled creations, have some warm French or Italian bread on hand to dip in the sauce left in each shell once the prepared dish has been eaten. After all, the New Orleans way is to never waste a drop of the sauce.