California Central Coast Recipes

Oysters a la Charra

Oysters a la Charra is my version of "Oysters on Horseback", which I had for the first time in Osaka Japan. My husband had to go Japan for an extended business trip. It was Christmas time, so the company he was working for offered to send me along too! The night we arrived in Osaka, we had Oysters on Horseback. We loved them! And since our stay in Osaka lasted almost two months, we were able to have this dish often.

When we got home, I couldn't wait to create my version of the recipe with a little more Californian Central Coast flair. It was wonderful with our local oysters. Instead of Oysters on Horseback, my husband said we had to call my version "Oysters a la Charra" (Horsewoman style) since I was a serious equestrian at the time.

It's still our favorite way to enjoy oysters and it makes such an unusual appetizer! The oysters are baked in the oven, with fresh bread crumbs, onion, garlic and a little butter and olive oil. It's a straight forward recipe and can be thrown together in a few minutes --after you get used to shucking oysters that is!. Take a look at my article How to shuck an oyster for shucking instruction. It is so delicious and satisfying no matter what hour of the day you have them. Your stomach will want to make a meal out of these!

The key to this recipe is finding the right bread crumbs and oysters. It is wonderful with our local oysters from Morro Bay Oyster Company. You want the crumbs to absorb all the juices of the fresh oyster, but stay whole, crispy on top, and moist underneath --but not turn into a soggy mess. A rustic style Italian or French bread is the best choice.

The best oysters to use are Pacific Coast varieties. These are larger with a "boat shaped" bottom shell to hold all the juices in as you bake them. 2018, Oysters a la Charra
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
re-calculate ingredients for:


8 to 12 medium Fresh Oysters , 2 to 3 for each person depending upon size.
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Unsalted butter
1/2 cup White onion , chopped
2 cloves Garlic , finely chopped
2 cups Fresh Coarse Bread Crumbs , use a rustic bread or French Roll with crust
1/4 cup Fresh Basil , chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Oregano , chopped
1/4 cup Italian Parsley , chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan Reggiano , grated.

White Wine or Clam Juice as needed

Preparation Directions.

1 Preheat the oven to 400F

2 Scrub any dirt or debris from the oysters and shuck them. Be careful not to loose any juices. See my article How to shuck an oyster.

3 In a medium saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil heat until just fragrant.

4 Add the onion and saute until the onion is soft and sweet, but not browned. Add the garlic to the pan and saute just until the garlic is fragrant --be careful not to burn it.

5 Reduce the heat to low and add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the bread crumbs, oregano, parsley, and basil and toss well until well combined.

6 Add the grated cheese and toss until well combined. The Bread crumbs should be moist. If they seem dry, add a little white wine or clam juice, just enough so the crumbs are not soggy, but will stick together if pinched.

7 Evenly spoon the crumb mixture on top of the shucked oysters. Gently press the crumbs to hold their shape, but do not pack them hard.

8 Place the oysters on an oven proof pan, and place into the hot oven. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the top of the crumbs are lightly browned.

9 When done, serve at once.

Wine and Food Pairing and Serving Suggestions.

This is a very wine friendly appetizer, you can serve with either a white wine or a young low tannin red wine.

If the oysters are delicate or if you are following the appetizer with an entree served with a white wine with good acidity like a Sauvignon or Fume Blanc would be a good choice.

If the oysters are robust like our Morro Bay Oysters and you are following the appetizer with an entree served with a red wine, this is an excellent time to serve a lighter Mediterranean style cuvee. Since we are Californians, we like predominately Zinfandel cuvee, but a lower tannin Syrah cuvee will work very well also.

A tip from Sue!

Cooking with onions and garlic

When your recipe calls for both sauted onions and garlic, saute the onions first - they take longer to soften. Then when the onions are almost softened, add the garlic.The garlic doesn't need very long to become fragrant - and you don't want to burn your garlic and turn it bitter!