Oysters Rockefeller

This renowned baked oyster dish was created at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans in 1899 by the proprietor, Jules Alciatore. According to legend, the dish was created as a substitute for baked snails, which were hard to obtain from France. It was named in honor of John D. Rockefeller, at that time one of the world's richest men, because of the sauce's intense richness. The following recipe is the old Delmonico restaurant's take on the dish, with the Rockefeller sauce base used not only to make the Oysters Rockefeller appetizer, but also used as a spread on toast to create canapés. Video:  Emeril Lagasse: Oysters Rockefeller 

oysters Rockefeller
Photo: Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
50 mins
Yield:
6 servings

Ingredients

Oysters

  • Rock salt

  • 2 dozen oysters in their shells, freshly shucked and drained, the deeper bottom shell rinsed and reserved for baking

Rockefeller Sauce Base

  • 6 ounces spinach, stems removed and rinsed

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 2 ¾ cups finely chopped yellow onions

  • ¼ cup finely chopped celery

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 2 tablespoons Herbsaint or other anise-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod or Pastis

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ cup cracker meal or cracker crumbs

Directions

Make the Sauce:

  1. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the spinach and cook until very tender and the water is green, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander set over a large bowl and reserve 2 3/4 cups of the cooking liquid. Let the spinach sit until cool enough to handle, then finely chop, and set aside.

  2. Melt the butter in a medium pot over moderately high heat. When the butter is foamy, add the onions, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved spinach water, bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped spinach, liqueur, salt and pepper and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add the cracker meal, and stir well to combine. Cool completely before using.

Make the Oysters:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread a 1/2-inch-thick layer of rock salt on a large baking sheet and across the bottoms of 6 large plates.

  2. Arrange reserved oyster shells on top of the salt on the baking sheet. Put 1 oyster in each shell and top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the sauce, spreading the sauce evenly out to the edge of the shell to completely cover the oyster. (Alternatively, transfer the sauce to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe the sauce over the oysters.)

  3. Bake until the sauce is lightly browned and the oysters begin to curl around the edges, 20-25 minutes.

  4. Using tongs or a spatula, carefully transfer the hot shells to the salt-covered plates and serve immediately.

Make Ahead

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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