There is over a century of history surrounding the recipe for Oysters Rockefeller and as many recipes out there as there are varieties of oyster. Created in 1899 at Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans, the dish was a version of one originally made for snails. Legend has it that when it was first eaten, people said it was “rich enough for a Rockefeller,” hence the name. One thing is for sure, the recipe is a closely guarded secret and while people have tried to duplicate it, it’s never been published, not even in their Antoine’s cookbook.
There’s been much debate over the years as to the ingredients, but experts agree the most traditional versions are made with a mix of herbs and watercress, not spinach which has become more common. Bacon, Parmesan cheese, cream, and even hollandaise sauce, are frequent additions, but not original. This version is as faithful as possible to the original.
Cut the stems off the watercress and chop the leaves into ½” pieces. Cut the stems off the parsley leave and mince with the celery leaves and stalk. Mince the tarragon.
Mince the garlic and finely chop the green onions.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the green onions and the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes until soft. Add the watercress, parsley, celery leaves and tarragon and cook until the greens are completely wilted, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the Pernod, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the bread crumbs.
Turn off the heat and cool for 10 minutes. The filling can be refrigerated at this point for later use. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If chilled, allow to soften slightly before using.
To cook, turn on the broiler or oven to high and put the rack about 4” from the heat source. Using an oven safe pan or dish, line the bottom with rock salt (this will keep the oysters stable and upright).
Shuck the oysters, taking care to not spill their liquor. Set them upright on the rock salt in the pan. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling on top of each oyster and set the pan under the broiler. Cook for about 6 minutes or until the top is browned and the oyster is cooked through, but not dry.
Disclaimer #1: Standard health warning regarding oysters: There is a risk associated with consuming raw oysters or any raw animal protein. If you have chronic illness of the liver, stomach, or blood or have immune disorders, you are at greatest risk of illness from raw oysters and should eat oysters fully cooked. If you are unsure of your risk, you should consult your physician.” Disclaimer #2: Parts of this post were originally written and photographed by me for the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Whisk Magazine.