Grilling Shellfish

Inspired recipes to kick off your Labor Day weekend with!


With Labor Day right around the next corner this weekend represents the last big chance at summer fun for many. I know there will be a lot of grilling going on this weekend, and tomorrow’s newsletter is all about grilling skewered items to make having fun this weekend easy for the host, and guaranteed for the guests, but today I want to just get the ball rolling with some delicious grilled shellfish recipes that can be a great prelude to the do it yourself skewer-a-thon that tomorrow’s newsletter encourages.

Shellfish are in general rather delicately flavored so grilling them takes a deft touch with the seasonings and a light hand with the grill lest you obliterate the subtle flavors of the shellfish you are so carefully cooking. One good tip to keep in mind when grilling shellfish is that shellfish tends to cook very quickly so to a certain extent bigger is better when it comes to having shellfish cook evenly on the grill.

Grilled Scallops with Remoulade

I love grilling scallops because they tend to be very similar in size, making cooking them perfectly easy to do, even if you have a lot of scallops to grill. This is a great recipe, particularly in light of the fact that I am suggesting you serve these as an appetizer course. My mouth is watering just thinking about making this dish and the only adjustment I would consider making would be to follow the advice of the commenters on the recipe page and cut down the garlic here as it seems to be a bit much for the recipe.

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Spicy, creamy, smoky and tart, there’s a lot going on here and you’ll need to pair this with a wine that serves either as a simple foil or else one that can handle the complexity of flavors. I’d go with the simple foil here as bringing in additional complex flavors is just asking for them to clash. A classic Chardonnay with some smoky oak to balance the effects of grilling on the scallops would be an ideal partner for this dish.

Two to try:

Rustenberg Chardonnay Stellenbosch $20

Stuhlmuller Vineyards Estate Chardonnay $25

Grilled Clams

Grilling clams is remarkably easy, and easy to cook perfectly. Once the clam pops open take it off the grill and you’ll have a perfectly cooked clam! The other side of the equation, over seasoning your clams is another story entirely. Clams have a subtle flavors and this recipe works with just a subtle dash of ginger and garlic to add some spice to the clams without overpowering them.

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I would go the same route with the wine, and pairing this recipe with a wine that has a little spice would be lovely. In fact I would be very tempted to serve this dish with a dry Muscat, as tough as it may to track them down. Do yourself a favor and find one, their fine tension and subtle, perfumed flavors will work wonders with this recipe.

Two to try:

Bisceglia Dry Muscat Terra di Vulcano $15

João Pires Dry Moscato Terras Do Sado $14

Grilled Old Bay Shrimp

Shrimp are probably the most forgiving of all shellfish when it comes to grilling. To a certain extent that’s because we all get served over cooked shrimp all the time and we’re pretty much used to it. Face it, any food that is cone shaped is going to suffer from uneven cooking issues, so at least try and make it as delicious as this dish is. A new take on an old classic, this is peel and eat shrimp with cocktail sauce but prepared on the grill. Cocktail sauce is a challenge to pair with wine, it’s spicy, tart and a bit sweet so ideally you'd find a wine with similar attributes to pair with this.

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That’s a tall order so I suggest you settle for something that works as a foil for these flavors. Something perhaps with a bit of fizz to it, and maybe a touch of sweetness, like a frizzante Prosecco for example, which is not as bubbly as your normal spumante Prosecco. You can often recognize the frizzante Proseccos by their slightly protruding corks that are tied onto the bottle with a length of string.

Two to try:

Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiandene Frizzante $16

Bisson Vino Frizzante Trevigiani $18

Grilled Oysters

Grilling oysters is an easy way to prepare them and you can prepare enough for an army all at once. It’s actually a great way to share oysters with your friends since no one has to do battle with the shells and the oysters can begin to pop open before they are fully cooked through, allowing you to enjoy some of the briny crispness that raw oysters bring to the table.

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This is a simple preparation and there’s no use screwing around with fancy wines here. Get a good bottle of crisp, mineral and citrus flavored Muscadet and get to work enjoying!

Two to try:

Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet $14

Chereau Carre Muscadet $12

Grilled Octopus

Grilled octopus is sort of a misnomer since you never simply grill octopus. In order to end up with octopus that is tender enough to enjoy you have to precook your octopus and then then finish it on the grill once it’s fully cooked and tender. I know this is cheating in a way, but I have to admit to loving grilled octopus. In fact it’s one of my favorite things to eat, particularly when I’m out for a dinner of old red wines. Believe it or not the fatty, smoky flavors of charred octopus go marvelously with older red wines, those produced from Nebbiolo and Sangiovese in particular.

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This is a lovely recipe, introducing late summer staples such as kale and tomatoes to the recipe makes it particularly appropriate for this coming weekend, though that does make it a little less wine friendly. I think looking towards some of the regions where you typically find grilled octopus for inspiration is in order here and I am tempted to do with moderately rich yet lightly mineral wines from Spain’s Atlantic coast and something from Greece in order to shake things up here.

Two to try:

Nasiakos Moschofilero $15

Mar de Frades Albariño $23

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