Posted by: Mai Fri, 12 Nov 2004, at 10:42 a.m
Oysters Rockefeller were created in 1899 by Jules Alciatore of Antoine's
restaurant, in New Orleans, to make use of local shellfish and greens. Named for
John D. Rockefeller, this classic first course is likewise rich.
Though Louisiana oysters tend to be quite large, it's best to use small ones,
such as Kumamoto or Prince Edward Island, for this recipe. The oysters
themselves (not the shells) should be no more than 1 to 1 1/2 inches in
3/4 cup firmly packed watercress sprigs (2 oz before discarding coarse stems),
1 1/3 cups firmly packed baby spinach (1 1/3 oz), finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion greens
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced celery
3 tablespoons coarse fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a day-old baguette)
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Pernod or other anise-flavored liquor
Pinch of cayenne
3 bacon slices
About 10 cups kosher salt for baking and serving (3 lb)
20 small oysters on the half shell, oysters picked over for shell fragments and
shells scrubbed well
Toss together watercress, spinach, scallion greens, parsley, celery, and 1
tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon bread crumbs in a bowl. Melt butter in a 10-inch
heavy skillet over moderate heat, then add watercress mixture and cook,
stirring, until spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in Pernod, cayenne, and
salt and pepper to taste, then transfer mixture to a bowl and chill, covered,
until cold, about 1 hour.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
While watercress mixture chills, cook bacon in cleaned skillet over moderate
heat, turning, until crisp, then drain on paper towels and finely crumble.
Spread 5 cups kosher salt in a large shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and nestle
oysters (in shells) in it. Spoon watercress mixture evenly over oysters, then
top with bacon and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons bread
crumbs. Bake oysters until edges of oysters begin to curl and bread crumbs are
golden, about 10 minutes.
Serve warm oysters in shells, nestled in kosher salt (about 5 cups), on a
Watercress mixture can be chilled up to 1 day.
Makes 10 hors d'oeuvre servings.