The oysters Rockefeller at Denis' Seafood on I-10 near Gessner are perfectly proportioned—the stuffing doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the oyster underneath. The chef told me he uses a mixture of spinach and chopped brocolli for the vegetable base. There's a dash of Noilly Pratt Vermouth in there too, which makes this a great appetizer to have with a martini.

Denis' Seafood
9777 Katy Freeway
713-464-6900
denisseafood.com

The dish was created in 1899 at Antoine's restaurant in New Orleans by Jules Alciatore, son of the founder. Legend has it that because there was no source for escargot, the restaurant attempted to substitute oysters in the recipe for the famous French dish "Escargots à la Bourguignonne," snails baked in their shells with butter, chopped parsley and shallots.  

The dish was named after John D. Rockefeller, the richest man of that era, because the sauce was "as rich as Rockefeller." When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's in 1937, Mayor Robert Maestri asked: "How you like dem ersters, Mr. Roosevelt?" The question, which was recorded in the national press, made the New Orleans "Yat" accent famous.

Everybody has their own recipe for Oysters Rockefeller, mainly because the original recipe has remained a closely guarded secret for all these years. Some people think the original is made with parsley, others insist it's actually watercress. The original recipe probably contained absinthe, but that's been changed to Herbsaint or Pernod. Most people prefer the flavor of spinach in Oysters Rockefeller—I know I do. This is my favorite Thanksgiving appetizer.

Oysters Rockefeller

36 fresh oysters on the half shell
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons finely minced fresh spinach leaves
3 tablespoons finely minced onion
3 tablespoons finely minced parsley
5 tablespoons homemade bread crumbs
Tabasco sauce to taste
1/2 teaspoon Herbsaint or Pernod
1/2 teaspoon salt
Rock salt
Lemon wedges for garnish

Using an oyster knife, open the oysters, then remove the oysters from the shell and place in a bowl. Discard the top shells; scrub and dry the bottom shells. Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor. In a large saucepan, melt the butter; add spinach, onion, parsley, bread crumbs, Tabasco sauce, Herbsaint or Pernod, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Press the spinach mixture through a sieve or food mill; let cool. (The stuffing may be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use.)

Preheat the oven broiler. Line an ovenproof plate or platter with a layer of rock salt about 1-inch deep (moisten the salt very slightly). Place an oyster and a little of the reserved oyster liquor on each oyster shell. Spoon an equal amount of the prepared spinach mixture over each oyster and spread to the rim of the shell. Press the stuffed oyster shells into the rock salt and twist until they are level. Broil approximately 5 minutes or until the edges of the oysters have curled and the topping is bubbling.

Garnish the plates or platter with the parsley sprigs and the lemon wedges Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings or 36 appetizers.

 

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