Monday, December 24, 2012

Because Oyster Rockefeller Sounds Rich

There’s much debate over how many of America’s greatest recipes got their name, but that’s not an issue with Oyster Rockefeller. Thanks to the rich, money-colored butter sauce, this decadent creation’s name pretty much wrote itself.

Besides the obvious, superficial reasons, associating your new shellfish appetizer with the most affluent family of the day was a stroke of social media genius. Hey, just because Twitter wouldn’t be invented for another 107 years doesn’t mean people didn’t “retweet” things.

When Jules Alciatore invented the dish in 1899, he wasn’t trying to create a classic, new American shellfish appetizer; he was simply trying to replace snails in his diet. That’s right, what would become America’s greatest seafood appetizer (sorry, crab cakes) was just a delicious work-around for a serious shortage of French snails in New Orleans.

To say the customers of Antoine's were happy with this local substitution would be a huge understatement. They went crazy for it. The dish quickly gained national attention, with the most famous celebrities, politicians, and foreign dignitaries of the day stumbling over each to get a plate or three.

The original secret recipe really is a secret; so all versions, including mine, are just guesses. There is agreement among foodies who study such matters that spinach was not part of the formula, but the much spicier and more flavorful watercress was used.

Neither were mushrooms, bacon, ham, cheese, garlic, or any other later day add-ons. Not that those ingredient aren’t good baked on top of oysters, but that just wasn’t how Mr. Alciatore rolled. So if you are looking for a special occasion appetizer that tastes, looks, and makes you feel (and sound) rich, then I hope you give this oyster Rockefeller recipe a try. Enjoy!

Makes enough for about 3 dozen oysters Rockefeller:
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) room temp
2 tbsp minced green onions, white and light green parts
2 tbsp diced celery
2 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon
2 tbsp fresh chopped Italian parsley
1 cup chopped watercress leaves
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
2 tbsp Pernod liquor
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 dozen oysters on the half shell

View the complete recipe

Bonus How to Open Oyster Video!

My friend Tamar, from Starving Off the Land, does a much better job of showing how to open oysters, but that’s only because she raises them and gets a lot more practice! That, and she’s better at it. Also, a special thanks to Sky Sabin Productions for their fine work on this.

For some additional shucking info, and tons of oyster recipe links, you can also check out this article on Enjoy!


Monica said...

I may try this for NY Eve. Getting oysters out of the shell is the pits. we tried it at Hog Island. your recipe sounded scrumptious.

Shim Farm said...

Merry Christmas, John and Michelle! Enjoy the holiday, and thanks for all the foodie inspiration you have given me since I've discovered your blog. All the best!

Judy said...

A Very Merry Christmas to you, Chef John!! :)

Dan and Hilary said...

Many happy returns and a very Merry Christmas Chef John. Will be consulting the blog in the kitchen while cooking my Christmas dinner, grease fingerprints on my iPad and all. Great havin you in my kitchen! Cheers

paula o said...

Chef John- Happly Holidays! Here's to eating our meal and planning the next one, and the next!
I'm dying to know what you had for Christmas dinner! Bet it's gonna be delish!

Dan and Hilary said...

Merry Christmas Chef John! And many happy returns. Will be consulting Foodwishes as I cook my Christmas dinner tommorrow, greasy iPad fingerprints and all. Great to have you in my kitchen, thanks again. Cheers to good health and good food in 2013!

Christiane said...

Thanks for the wonderful recipes and a Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Unknown said...

The first time I ordered this recipe it was baked. Since then, whenever I order this recipe it is always deep fried. It makes me cry on the inside. This recipe really made my day. Thanks, Chef John.

But, really? A Gandhi joke? Tacky.

Beau Pace said...

Never too late to send New Year wishes. Nice post.

Comfort Dentist said...

YUM! I am running to the store to get some oysters and watercress!

Anonymous said...

I had this and Antione's and was disappointed. Your's looks sooo much better.

Unknown said...

"Watercrest??" He said it twice. Also, he has said "acrost" in other videos. There is no T at the end of watercress and no T at all in across.

Unknown said...

As with many dishes at Antoine’s, the original version contained a couple of teaspoons of capers. Also, absinthe was the original liquor used, but when outlawed, Herbsaint was substituted and later Pernod was used. Today absinthe is again legal and should be used.