Chef Sam Hayward told me that in the early days at Fore Street, a local oyster collector found some huge Belon oysters near Cundy’s Harbor in Harpswell. They were really tough to open while live, so he roasted them for just a few minutes until the shells popped open as the slightly cooked oyster released its tight grip. I followed that advice with the big, ugly oysters I found recently at Gurnet Trading Company, which were also foraged from Cundy’s Harbor. Once their top shell is removed, the oysters get a dollop of this compound butter. A minute in the cooling oven melds the butter and the oyster brine into a sauce without overcooking the oyster.

Makes 24 roasted oysters

24 live oysters, scrubbed

4 ounces unsalted, room-temperature butter

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons minced chipotle chili in adobo sauce


1/2 teaspoon lime zest or very finely minced cilantro

Pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange oysters flat side up on a large (11 by 17 inches) baking sheet with sides. They will fit tightly against each other, which is a good thing as they steady each other so that not too much of their liquor spills over onto the pan. Place the oysters in the oven and roast until they open just slightly, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven. Shut the oven off.

While the oysters are roasting, use an electric mixer (or a wooden spoon and a lot of elbow grease) to combine the butter, maple syrup, chipotle, lime zest or cilantro and salt into a smooth paste.

Once the oysters have popped open and you’ve removed them from the oven, use an oyster knife to fully remove their top shells. (I wear a glove on my non-knife-wielding hand as the shells are hot.)

Dollop a half-teaspoon of compound butter into each open oyster. Place the pan back into the cooling oven to just melt the butter, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with crusty bread to sop up any of the buttery, briny sauce that sits in the pan after the oysters are gone.

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