Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt calls live fire cooking "a craft that’s a step up from laid-back grilling and backyard barbeque."

So, why not? Step up your cookouts this summer by playing with some live fire, and let Michael Chiarello's Live Fire be your guide. Chiarello will make you a believer.

Oysters on the Half Shell with Grilled Prosciutto and Mignonette

Serves 8

Forget shucking raw oysters. If you place whole closed oysters on the grill, not only do they open easily, but you add a little drama to the party. If you have already-shucked oysters, you can grill them too: just wipe the grill with olive oil, and grill the naked oysters for a bare 2 minutes. Kumamotos and Bluepoints are both good choices for grilling. I love our local Hog Island oysters, which you can order by mail, or seek out great oysters from a fish­monger near you. A traditional mignonette (a classic vinaigrette for oysters) calls for shallots, but I like the bolder flavor of red onion with the grilled prosciutto. Substitute 3 tablespoons of diced shallots for the red onion if you prefer a more subtle flavor. Ask your butcher for a whole piece of prosciutto (not cut into thin slices the way it is normally). You’ll grill the prosciutto chunk and then cut it into strips for the top of each oyster. A brunoise dice is a restaurant kitchen technique in which the onion is diced into tiny, neat squares.

Live Fire_Oysters on the Half Shell

24 oysters in their shells


  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 3 tablespoons red onion, cut into brunoise dice (tiny cubes)

  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 1/2 teaspoon Calabrian chile paste, or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 2-ounce chunk prosciutto (not sliced)

  • 1/2 tablespoon whole peppercorns, for garnish

Place the oysters in a large bowl and fill it with cold water. Clean each oyster with a brush, scraping off any loose particles that may be attached to the shell. Once the oysters are well rinsed, drain off the water, make sure each oyster is arranged so the deep-cup side of the shell faces down, and store the oysters in the refrigerator, covered with a towel. Never store oysters sub­merged in water.

FOR THE MIGNONETTE: Whisk together the oil and pars­ley in a bowl. (If you combine the herbs and oil first, the herbs don’t brown as quickly.) Add the onion, lemon juice and zest, chile paste, salt, and pepper. Cover and place it in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Turn a gas grill to high or ignite charcoal. For both gas and charcoal grills, when the grill is hot, clean your grill rack. For a gas grill, decrease the temperature to medium-high, and brush or wipe a little olive oil on the grill rack.

With tongs, lay the chunk of prosciutto on the grill and cook until the bottom shows distinct grill marks, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and grill the other side until marked, about 2 minutes. Remove the prosciutto from the grill and allow it to cool while you grill the oysters.

Make sure the gas grill is hot or that your charcoal has burned to a hot pile that shows some red glow beneath gray ashy coals.

Wipe each oyster with a towel and place the shell directly on the grill rack. When all 24 oysters are on the grill, close the grill lid. Allow the oysters to cook just until you hear them popping open, 3 to 4 minutes.

With tongs take the oysters off the grill, and snap off and discard the top shell, taking care not to lose the liquid inside the shell. Using an oyster knife, gently scrape the bottom shell to release the oyster, without spilling any liquid if you can help it.

livefireCut the prosciutto chunk into strips, each about 1/4 inch thick and 3/4 inch long. Fill several serving dishes (unless you have one big enough for 24 oysters) with crushed ice and sprinkle peppercorns over the ice for contrast.

Transfer the oysters, still on their half shells, onto the bed of ice, and top each oyster with a few strips of grilled prosciutto. Spoon mignonette over each oyster, and pour the remain­ing mignonette into a small serving bowl, which gets passed around the table.

Courtesy of Michael Chiarello, Michael Chiarello’s Live Fire: 125 Recipes for Cooking Outdoors, Chronicle Books (2013). Images credit Frankie Frankeny. Read our review of this book.

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