April 2023
Words and recipes by Zak Kuras


A few years ago I worked with Togue Brawn from Downeast Dayboat Scallops. Togue sources her scallops directly from local fishermen all over Downeast Maine, and they are far and away the best quality scallops I have ever had. When I first started Brother Shucker, I was looking for ways to stand out from the “raw bar crowd” with some of our dishes, and really wanted to utilize the high quality seafood we have access to in Maine. As a topping for raw scallops, I experimented with traditional chili crunch oils and our version was born. What started as an exclusively scallop topping has now become one of my favorite condiments for many different dishes, both in the food trucks and at home.


When buying scallops, it is important to try and find the highest quality you have access to. START LOCAL! There are fishmongers throughout Maine who source right from the docks. Look for the labels: “Gulf of Maine” and “Dayboat.” These scallops are as they sound: harvested in Maine and sold on the same day. This is important—other scallops can be kept on the boat for up to two weeks, which requires preservatives that can alter the taste and firmness of the scallop. Peak dayboat scallop season starts in December and ends in the spring (dates vary).


1-3 cups neutral oil
½ cup shallot, finely chopped
4 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons ginger paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or other citrus)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon gochujang or kimchi paste
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped


Add the shallot to 1 cup of the neutral oil and slowly simmer on very low heat. The key here is to make sure the shallot does not burn. Meanwhile, mix all remaining ingredients except for the garlic in a bowl. Mix well—this will ensure that the flavors blend faster. As the shallots begin to carmelize, add the finely chopped garlic and stir. Again: make sure nothing burns. Turn up the heat on the oil for a minute or two until it starts to sizzle, carefully pour the oil over the spice-mix in the bowl and watch as it bubbles (this is my favorite part). Stir well. You can use the oil immediately, but the longer you let it sit, the more flavorful and spicy it will be. To serve, slice scallops thinly on the horizontal, arrange on a plate (or half shell), and spoon oil over.


While many prefer to eat oysters—especially Maine oysters—raw on the half shell, there are plenty of other fun and delicious ways to eat them. Whether you’re looking for a less slimy option or a warm savory bite, one of my favorite ways to prepare oysters is to broil them.

Everyone has heard of Oysters Rockefeller with its bread crumbs and spinach, but I prefer a simpler topping: compound butter. When oyster toppings get too complicated, the essence of the oyster can get lost. This is fine when you’re buying bushels in New Orleans for $40, but when working with the fresh and complex cold-water Maine oyster, I like to let the bivalve speak.

Compound butter is a simple way to give a little “pop” to your oyster without overpowering it. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Butter with some stuff in it! You can experiment with different additions, but my favorite is smoky harissa. Make your own following the recipe below or save time by buying the premade paste in the international aisle at the grocery store.


We in Maine are blessed with the awesome variety of oysters produced in our state. There are over 150 oyster farms of all shapes and sizes with over a dozen on the Damariscotta River—my hometown—alone. This may make it seem like a daunting task to choose the right oyster, but don’t worry. It’s hard to go wrong. In my top three are: Heron Island Oysters, Johns River Oyster, and Glidden Point (Glidden was my first job in the oyster industry, and produces some very high quality oysters).


6-8 dried Chile peppers*
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
¼ - ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
*I prefer New Mexico Chile peppers and Chile de Arbol- these combine for a nice smokiness and have a good amount of spice and flavor. Depending on how much paste you are making, I recommend at least 3 of each. These often come dried, so it is best to rehydrate them before adding them to the food processor or mortar and pestle.


Hydrate your peppers and remove the seeds. Mix everything but the oil in a food processor or high speed blender. While blending, slowly add the oil until you get the desired pasty texture. It should not be too oily or runny.

Now that you have your harissa, it is time to combine it with the butter. My preference is always quality grass-fed or Amish butter. Unsalted is best, as the oyster will contribute enough brine and savory umami flavors. When making the compound butter, I generally say two tablespoons of Harissa paste to one stick of butter. This gives the butter a great red color but won't overpower the oyster or whatever else you use the butter on. Gently melt a stick of butter in a saucepan or microwave safe bowl, and stir in the paste until mixed well. You can stick this into the fridge and it will solidify and last for weeks!

After shucking your oysters, turn your oven on to broil, and find a grill or grate to balance the oysters on. This can also be a baking rack, crumpled tin foil or even a thick layer of salt. Place the oysters down, taking care not to spill the liquids, and gently place the desired amount of harissa butter on each one. When the butter is cool, it is easy to make little pads of butter for each of the oysters.

Once on the heat, the oysters do not take long. I find that it is better to undercook rather than overcook them. All we are trying to do is lightly poach the oyster in its own juices and the delicious butter.

When you pull the oysters off the heat, you can eat as they are, or add some chopped chives or lime zest for a little extra zing.



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