The History of Oysters Rockefeller and How to Make Them

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Like so many ingenious dishes beloved throughout the world, the recipe for Oysters Rockefeller was invented in New Orleans. It was here in 1899 at the iconic restaurant Antoine’s, that the chef Jules Alciatore created a dish that has become so famous, nearly four million orders of it have been served at this legendary Big Easy hot-spot.

Alciatore was the son of Antoine Alciatore, the restaurant’s founder. He came up with the recipe due to a shortage of French escargot in the city. When he swapped the snails for plump Gulf Shore oysters, he had an instant hit on his hands.

No one knows for sure why the name Rockefeller is associated with this dish but one story claims it was because a patron cried out, “These are as rich as a Rockefeller!” after tasting the recipe for the first time. The real reason is more likely because the green color of the topping symbolized the sizable wealth of the Rockefeller family.

The original recipe for Oysters Rockefeller included watercress instead of the spinach that now comprises the topping. The exact ratio of the ingredients remained a closely guarded secret that Alciatore refused to provide even from his deathbed. Today, the recipe is cherished in restaurants around the globe, but it tastes the best at Antoine’s, where hundreds of orders are placed for it each and every day since it was first invented over 100 years ago.

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How to Make Oysters Rockefeller:

  1. 24 oysters are recommended for a gathering of four people. Scrub the oysters shells clean using a scrub brush in order to remove any excess sand or debris. Pat the shells dry.
  2. Pry open the oysters using a shucking knife. Be sure to do this over a clean bowl in order to collect the oyster liquor for use later on. Discard the top shell. Keep the oysters in a covered container in the refrigerator while you complete the next step.
  3. Preheat the oven to broil.
  4. In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and saute 2 cups of finely sliced spinach leaves, 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, 1/4 cup finely chopped onions until the onions are tender and aromatic.
  5. Add 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon Pernod or Herbsaint and saute for three more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with Tabasco sauce.
  6. Spread a one inch layer of rock salt on a lipped sheet tray or in a casserole dish, sprinkle with water, and arrange the oysters in their shells on top of it.
  7. Drizzle about a half teaspoon of the oyster liquor over each oyster.
  8. Spoon the spinach mixture on top of each oyster and broil until the spinach is bubbling and the edges of the oysters begins to just turn golden brown. This will take about four to five minutes but watch carefully to prevent burning.
  9. Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with finely chopped parsley, and serve while still piping hot with a bowl of lemon wedges.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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