Oyster Rockefeller Soup
I’m not sure, but I think the first chef to turn the classic Creole-French appetizer into a soup was Michael Uddo. He and his brother Mark had a great Italian restaurant in the French Market neighborhood. This was in the early 1980s, when chefs began realizing that recipes were not sacraments, and that they could play with them. Michael did, and the result it was a big hit whenever it was the soup du jour. Michael is still making it now and then at his current post, Cafe B in Metairie. My version here uses the flavor profile in the original oysters Rockefeller from Antoine’s. The critical ingredient is oyster water (“oyster liquor”), which can be had from any outfit that shucks oysters. Sometimes even for free, if they like you.
- 1 quart oyster water
- 1 rib celery
- 3 green onions, tops only
- 1/2 bunch parsley, leaves only
- 1 medium to small fennel bulb, core removed
- 1/2 cup fresh watercress (or fresh spinach)
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 4 Tbs. butter
- 4 Tbs. flour
- 1/4 cup Herbsaint or Pernod liqueur
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne
- 1 tsp. white pepper
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 1/2 tsp. thyme
- 1 pint fresh oysters
1. Strain the oyster water into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for about five minutes.
2. While that’s going on, chop all the vegetables and the anchovies in a food processor into a rough puree. Add a little water to keep everything moving if necessary.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the flour. Stir to make a blond roux. Add the pureed vegetables to the roux, and continue to stir for about a minute. Add the Herbsaint or Pernod and cook for about another minute.
4. Add the vegetable mixture to the oyster water. Add the salt, cayenne, white pepper, Worcestershire, bitters, and thyme to the soup. Simmer for five minutes.
5. Just before serving, add the oysters and all the water they were packed in (strained). Cook until the oysters are curly at the edges. Stir, check seasonings and add salt and cayenne to taste.