Oysters “R” good

I’ve written about oysters here before.

I am incredibly fond of these mollusks and the seemingly infinite ways they can be prepared and served. My travels have allowed me to sample these delicacies in some of the most interesting places. From the Olde Stand Bar and Restaurant in Waterford, Ireland where they were paired with a pint of freshly drawn Guinness to a sampler platter at the Oyster Bar in New York’s Grand Central Station, I‘ve been fortunate to indulge my fondness on both sides of the Atlantic. It is probably not a coincidence that two of my favorite areas of this country are known for their oysters: the Chesapeake Bay and the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

We recently made a long-overdue return to New Orleans (our first post-Katrina) with friends Mark and Susan. From the time we booked the trip, Mark and I engaged in an ongoing dialogue about oysters. Foremost of the subtopics was the history of arguably the most famous of preparations, Oysters Rockefeller.
As the story goes, the recipe dates from 1899 when it was created at Antoine’s in New Orleans by Jules Alciatore, son of the restaurant’s namesake founder. Jules sought to substitute local oysters for the harder to get and falling out of favor French snails used in the dish escargot bourguignon. He developed a secret recipe for a green sauce that was placed on top of oysters on the half shell, broiled and served. According to legend the name came from the exclamation of a very pleased diner who, upon being served the dish, stated, “Why this is as rich as Rockefeller!

There are innumerable variations of the recipe today. Contrary to the original, many contain spinach.

While in New Orleans, we took one of our lunches at Antoine’s and ordered the oysters 1-1-1. This consisted of one each of oysters Rockefeller, Bienville, and Thermidor. The Thermidor was, for my palate, a throwaway. It consisted of an oyster topped with a mild tomato based sauce (think Heinz Chili Sauce) and a small piece of bacon cooked under the broiler.

Oysters 3 ways

Oysters Bienville is my favorite of the elaborate broiled oyster preparations and consists of a shrimp sauce baked atop an oyster on the half shell. Its creation is credited to Arnaud’s restaurant, another culinary landmark in the French Quarter. This dish finds its way into most of my New Year’s Eve celebration menus.  The version served at Antoine’s was all right…but in all modesty, I think mine are superior.

The Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s were ok. I’ve had better…perhaps not as authentic, but better elsewhere. It is still cool that we had the opportunity to try them where they were created.

Fortunately, our trip occurred prior to the full effects of the oil spill disaster in the gulf hit the seafood providers and oysters were plentiful during our visit. This enabled me to savor oysters every day we were in town. In contrast to the elaborate preparations described above, I took the bulk of my oysters in the simpler, chaRbroiled style.

Originating at Drago’s restaurant in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Charbroiled Oysters takes many versions

Charbroiled oysters, Acme Oyster House, New Orleans, LA

based on the simple theme of oysters on the half shell topped with a mixture of butter, cheese and seasonings then grilled over an open flame. I ate these at the Acme Oyster House, Oceana Grill, and Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar and they were all slightly different but quite good. I also tried them at the Royal House in the French Quarter and they were rather disappointing.

I have made oysters in this style myself, most notably at a small gathering three years ago when our then 9 month old

Jackson observes the preparation of charbroiled oysters, March 2007.

 puppy decided to attempt to get one off of the grill as it cooked.

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, just a few days after our return from New Orleans and still jonesing for the buttery/cheesey oysters, I made up a dozen of them as part of my dinner one night.

In addition, this past Saturday*, I served up 80 of them for a small gathering we had in honor of some out of town visitors.

On Friday morning, Mark and I ran down to Bivalve to pick up a box of the large oysters. While in the office, we got to discussing oyster preparations. The manager of the packinghouse is fond of Oysters Rockefeller. He likes to make up large batches of the topping, portion it out and freeze it for future use.

I told him about the chaRbroiled oysters and briefly described how I make them.

We graciously accepted his copy of “the original recipe from New Orleans” along with the box of oysters and were on our way.

Upon returning to Trenton, I faxed him back the instructions for my version of ChaRbroiled Oysters. I don’t claim it is original or authentic. However, my guests Saturday night would apparently testify that they are tasty.

Charbroiled Oysters

  • 36 oysters on the half shell
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
  • 1/2 cup grated parmagiano reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

Heat the grill to medium-high heat

Soften butter and in a small bowl, mix in the grated cheeses.

Spoon some of teh butter/cheese mixture onto each oyster.  Place on the grill.  Grill until the oysters are hot, bubbly, and puffed.  About 8 Minutes.  YIELD: 6 servings. 

Be sure to serve with lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce and juices.

*While it is traditional to only purchase/order oysters in months containing an “R” in them, that was more a practicle matter before mechanical refrigeration.  It is true that oysters spawn in the warmer months and may be more flabby then in the winter, but you couldn’t prove it by the box of 80 we just consumed.

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One Response to “Oysters “R” good”

  1. Seafood on the grill « Dj'eat? Says:

    […] Dj'eat? Notes from the kitchen table and beyond. « Oysters “R” good […]

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