Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oysters Rockefeller: A Recipe to Die For

Over the years, I’ve fixed oysters Rockefeller many many many times. One of my favorite recipe sources was from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook. It had two preparations that were delicious. They appeared on pages 20 and 21 (on either side of a sheet). I prepared both recipes so frequently that when my New York Times Cookbook began to disintegrate from constant use, this extremely soiled and worn page(s) became separated and lost.

As oysters Rockefeller became more mainstream, I moved on to other preparations, whatever was new. When deciding to fix them once again for Fat Tuesday, the lost page from Craig Claiborne was a problem. I knew that other recipes were around, however. To my rescue came a very old, thin, and all but forgotten cardboard- backed cookbook, Mary Moore Bremer’s 1932 New Orleans Creole Recipes featuring old-school cuisine.

Here, coincidentally on page 21, an appealing recipe turned up. The page had to be as soiled and worn as page 21 of my New York Times Cookbook had been before falling out. Fortunately, though, wide plastic bindings had kept it in place. The recipe’s introduction states, “This dish was invented by Jules Alciatore.” Further research reveals that Mr. Alciatore’s original recipe was eventually lost after many years of being a well kept secret at Antoine’s, which Mr. Alciatore founded. Regardless of origin, I can’t imagine how a recipe so good got away from me.

Nor can I imagine how oysters Rockefeller could ever get any better than this.


24 Oysters in the shell to be shucked
2 Bunches of spinach
2/3 Bunch of shallots
1/3 Bunch of parsley
1/3 Head of celery
1/3 Pound of butter, softened
Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste
Juice of a large lemon
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons Absinthe---Pernod, Ouzo, or Anisette should work.

Chop the vegetables together before placing in a food processsor* with the soft butter in pieces. Chop further with several pulses so the vegetables remain very coarse. Season with the salt, Cayenne, lemon juice, Worcestershire Sauce, and Absinthe. Shuck oysters, set them in a pan on rock salt, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake in a very hot oven for five to eight minutes.

*The recipe predates food processors and instructs to “mince very fine” all the ingredients, presumably by hand.