The memory of Corinne Dunbar’s restaurant, a landmark on St. Charles Avenue for years, is fading away. Which may be just as well, because there was really only one dish that made a big enough impression on the palate that I still hear requests for recipes for it. It’s the kind of dish that you’d never find anywhere in the world but New Orleans: oysters in a thick, savory brown sauce. I received a note from reader Jim Marsalis with his mother’s take on oysters Dunbar. He says her name was Corinne, interestingly enough. I tried it out and thought it was a great recipe. Here it is, with only minimal goosing from me. The presence of margarine in it tells me it comes from long ago.
- 1 stick margarine
- 1/2 cup corn oil
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
- 3 finely chopped green onions, tender green parts only
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/4 tsp. thyme
- 2 tbs. finely chopped parsley
- Juice of one lemon, strained
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- As much oyster water as you can get, up to a quart
- 36 large oysters
- 1 can artichoke hearts packed in water, coarsely chopped
1. Heat margarine and oil in a heavy aluminum saucepan. Add flour. Make a very dark roux. Constant stirring is the key to this, to prevent burning. Burned roux is unsalvageable! The pace of browning picks up the longer you cook.
2. Have the green onions and celery chopped and ready, and when the roux gets to the right color, remove the pan from the oven and stir them in. Keep stirring until the vegetables are soft. Add salt, peppers, oregano, thyme, parsley, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce.
3. Add oyster water and enough more regular water if necessary to make a thick sauce. Chop one dozen of the oysters and add to the sauce. Cover and cook slowly for about a half-hour, till thick enough to pick up with a fork.
4. Place four to six oysters in ovenproof baking dishes (au gratin dishes are perfect), along with two Tbs. of chopped artichoke. Top with enough sauce to generously cover. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Serve with hot French bread on the side.
Serves four to six.