Oysters Rockefeller, an appetizer made easy with rich, salty, briny, sweet oysters baked with layers of creamy spinach, crispy thick cut smoky bacon and toasted Parmesan cheese.
Ahh, oysters. You either love them or hate them. Personally, I love them because I grew up eating them since I was a little girl, right off the half shell. In Maryland, especially on the Eastern Shore, you eat oysters all winter and crabs all summer. It’s what you do. We make all kinds of interesting things with Oysters but Oyster Stew is my father’s specialty yet lately it’s been Oysters Rockefeller. His recipe is different than mine, he adds a little blue cheese on top (or to) the creamed spinach which is awesome and totally something you guys can do if you choose.
In this recipe I had access to whole, fresh oysters but often Papa Stone will buy quarts of shucked oysters from the store and create this baked masterpiece in small baking dishes using a few oysters in their liqueur (yes, that’s what the oyster juice is officially called) or in some reusable scallop shells he has on hand. He likes to make them for kitchen parties and serve them straight out of the oven with little cocktail forks. **Hey hey, an excuse to use those cute little Crate & Barrel forks you buy but never seem to use? Sound familiar? I have tons. Drawers full.
So, history has it that this dish came to be in late 1800’s after a shortage of french snails left the famous New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s (still there today) in a pickle, forcing them to try local oysters as a substitute which was with little doubt, a fish certain to not hold such high regard as the Escargot. The dish was so popular and rich in flavor, they nick named it Rockefeller after the richest man in America at the time Mr. John D. Rockefeller and never looked back. Today they claim to still serve the only original recipe passed down from the creator, Jules Alciatore of Antoine’s to his children, and it has apparently never left the family’s hands. Competing restaurants have had to formulate their own recipes and thus it has evolved into a primarily spinach and cream based recipe.
If anyone has had the original I would love to hear your thoughts. It is apparently quite different featuring a lot of parsley, celery, chive & scallion. If I ever get down to New Orleans, Antoine’s is on my list for various reasons…Eggs Sardou, Flaming Cafe Brulot, Baked Alaska…I am clearly hungry writing this & already in the midst of fighting off the travel bug after a conversation about Thailand with my brother last night. If I am not careful, an expensive plane ticket is in my near future. We will have to wait and see how that one plays out.
Back to the recipe at hand, these are so good and so simple though, I want you to promise me you will not be intimidated to make these. The hardest part is probably shucking (opening) the darn things but I have a very handy husband for that job.
Never been a good oyster shucker myself.
You might also be wondering how to open the shells and they make a very special tool called an oyster knife. I like one made by the Charleston Shucker Company. It has a stainless steel beveled blade, steel guard for protecting your hands, an easy to grip handle and is from a great little company out of Charleston, SC one of my most favorite places on the planet. A quality oyster knife is key here as a cheap one can easily break off and when that happens the men like to get creative in their opening. This usually happens after they have had a beer or two and then I see things like screw drivers come into play and this is no good. This is where things get messy.
I assembled these oysters on a baking sheet covered in rock salt left over from the ice cream maker. This is completely optional, it imparts no extra flavor, just looks good and helps keep the shells from sliding around on the tray.
I used the oven to roast these at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes depending on the size of the oyster. You could go a few minutes more or less, just look for your bacon to crisp up and the oyster to firm just a bit. You could also do these outside on the grill which I highly recommend! If you can use charcoal or wood, you can probably get some great smokiness that would be so delicious. Anything that comes off of a wood fire is always exceedingly more tasty.
So what do you think? Can you make this? It is so worth it if you can find some awesome oysters. Mine were from Washington State and were farm raised. I found them right in my grocery store here in Tahoe for $12 bucks. I am still proud of myself for that find!
I am dying to hear how you guys do and to what variations you make with this recipe. I love hearing how people change it up and cook off the cuff.
Wine Pairing: I served these straight off the baking sheet, on my backyard picnic table, with a Sauvignon Blanc. A Rose, Pinot Gris or even a Chardonnay would be excellent pairing choices. I tend to love Chardonnay in the colder months and sav blanc or rose in the summertime. Joel Gott makes an excellent Sav Blanc for under $15 available around the country in most wine stores, anything New Zealand would be killer as well and also budget friendly.