The most surprising request for a recipe I ever received came from Bernard Guste, the fifth-generation proprietor of Antoine’s. He wanted to use my recipe for oysters Rockefeller. His reason was that since Antoine’s own recipe (they invented the dish, I’m sure you know) is a secret, they needed something to give the many people who ask for it. He told me that my recipe is “embarrassingly close” to the real thing. I’m flattered. And if I say so myself, he’s right. It took me about fifty tries to create a match for the flavor of Antoine’s great specialty.
Which does not and never did include either spinach or Mornay sauce, as most recipes call for. It does have green food coloring–an atrocity now, but very common in the cooking of a century ago, when this dish was created. (Feel free to leave it out.)
Oysters Rockefeller have always been among my favorite Creole-French dishes, and one that creates its own special occasion when you make it.
- Four dozen oysters
- Water from oysters, plus enough more water to make two cups
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 1 1/2 cups chopped green onion tops
- 2 cups chopped parsley, stems removed
- 1 cup chopped fresh fennel
- 1 cup chopped watercress
- 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh garlic
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne
- 1 tsp. white pepper
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 drops green food coloring (optional but authentic)
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups very fine fresh bread crumbs
1. Combine the vegetables and the anchovies in small batches and chop to a near-puree in a food processor, using the oyster water to help things along.
2. Combine this green slurry and the rest of the oyster water in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring every now and then, until the excess water is gone but the greens remain very moist. Add sugar, catsup, salt, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, bitters and food coloring.
3. Make a blond roux with the butter and flour. Blend well into the greens, until the sauce takes on a different, lighter texture. Then mix in the bread crumbs.
4. Place large, fresh oysters into oyster shells, small ovenproof ramekins, or small au gratin dishes. Top each oyster with a generous tablespoon of sauce (or more, if you like). Bake 15 minutes in a preheated 450-degree oven, or until the top of the sauce has barely begun to brown. Serve immediately.
If you’d like to bake this using oyster shells, serve on a bed of rock salt or on a napkin to keep the shells from rocking.