Next to the Holy Grail, the most difficult thing in the world to find is a recipe from a restaurant that is no longer in business. I’m asked for them at the rate of about one a week. Some such requests come up again and again. I think I have been asked for this one at least a hundred times.
Corinne Dunbar’s was a unique restaurant on St. Charles Avenue that operated more like a private home. It had a fixed menu each day, and you never knew what you’d be served. But you hoped it would be oysters Dunbar, the restaurant’s most famous dish. It was an oyster-and-artichoke casserole, and although I have never been able to obtain an authentic recipe from original sources, I’ve been able to piece together enough facts about it to come up with this one. At the very least, it seems close to what I remember from the one time I went to Dunbar’s in the early 1970s.
- 4 large artichokes
- 2 Tbs. salt
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 Tbs. flour
- 1 stick, plus 2 Tbs. butter
- 1/4 cup thinly-sliced green onion
- 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
- 2 dozen oysters
- Oyster water, up to one cup
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 2 Tbs. salt and half the lemon juice. Cook the artichokes until tender, then remove from the water and allow to cool.
2. Scrape the meat from the outer artichoke leaves. When you get to the hearts, pull them apart and keep the whole leaves. Also chop the artichoke bottom into medium dice.
3. In a skillet, heat the stick of butter until it bubbles, and stir in the flour to form a loose blonde roux. Add the green onions and cook until tender.
4. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the oyster water and whisk until the pan contents are as thick as molasses. Add the oysters, and cook for another two 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste.
5. Scatter the reserved artichoke pieces in a baking dish. Add the skillet contents. Top with bread crumbs. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 12-15 minutes, until the bread crumbs are browned and the rapid bubbling of the liquid contents has begun to slow.
6. Allow to cool for about five minutes. Serve in small dishes with pasta Bordelaise, or as an appetizer.
Serves four to six.