This recipe is provided by multi James Beard Award nominee and Food Network’s Extreme Chef Anthony Lamas and James Beard Award nominee food and travel writer Gwen Pratesi from their newest cookbook SOUTHERN HEAT. Learn more about Chef Anthony Lamas on his Chef’s Roll profile.
I love oysters and will eat them no matter how they’re prepared. Some of my favorite oysters come from Rappahannock Oyster Co., located on the coastal waters of Virginia (for more on Rappahannock Oyster Co., see pp. 124–125). The company cultivates several varieties of oysters with a different taste and brininess in each. I prefer their signature Rappahannock River Oysters for this dish because of their sweet, buttery, full-bodied flavor.
Rappahannock River Oysters are medium size and have deep shells, making them ideal for this preparation. However, you can substitute other deep-shell briny oysters, such as Blue Point, Malpeques, or Wellfleets. Use cold-water oysters, which are firmer and meatier than warm-water oysters.
My Latin and Southern spin on the classic Oysters Rockefeller uses smoky Benton’s bacon, Manchego cheese, and roasted poblano peppers. Make the topping mixture a day ahead. Several hours before serving, prepare and top the oysters. You can then refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake and serve.
MAKES 1 DOZEN
1 ounce smoky bacon (like Benton’s),
1⁄4 small Spanish onion, cut into
1⁄4-inch dice (1⁄2 cup)
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1⁄2 ounce Pernod
1 cup heavy cream
11⁄2 to 2 teaspoons cornstarch slurry,
(p. 118), as needed
21⁄2 ounces grated Manchego cheese, plus more for garnish
2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or use all Manchego)
1 roasted poblano, trimmed, peeled, seeds and membranes removed, and chopped
2 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 dozen medium-size, deep-shell, briny oysters, scrubbed clean (I like Rappahannock River Oysters)
Sea salt and water, for cleaning the oysters
Ice cream salt, as a base for baking
Fine breadcrumbs, for topping
Lemon wedges, for serving
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the bacon for about 2 minutes, until it renders some fat, then add the diced onion. Continue cooking over medium heat
until the bacon is lightly browned but not overcooked and the onion is softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with the salt and white pepper. Off the heat, add the Pernod and light to cook off the alcohol. Add the cream and return the skillet to the heat. Bring the mixture to a low boil, add the cornstarch slurry, and cook until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add more slurry, if necessary, so that the mixture is the consistency of a heavy cream sauce. Stir in the grated cheeses and roasted poblano; mix thoroughly. Transfer the cream mixture to a medium bowl, add the spinach, and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. The mixture will thicken and appear semi-solid.
Several hours before serving, clean and scrub the oysters. To do this, remove the oysters and connective muscle from the shells (see the tip on p. 42). Reserve the oysters and discard the muscle. Wash the shells in salted water, using a mixture of 1 part sea salt to 8 parts water (this replicates ocean salinity). Drain. Rinse the shells to remove any sand or grit.
Lay out the oyster shells on a baking sheet with sides that’s covered with a thick layer of ice cream salt. Mound enough salt to keep the shells from tipping over. Put one oyster in each shell and top with 11⁄2 tablespoons of the cream mixture, covering the oyster completely. Refrigerate for about 1 hour. ’
When ready to bake, heat a convection oven to 400°F and top each oyster with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs, pressing the crumbs into the cold mixture so that the breadcrumbs are secure. Make sure the oysters are level on their salt bed, then bake for
11 to 12 minutes, or until the oysters are golden brown, bubbly, and heated through.
Top each oyster with a pinch of grated Manchego and serve immediately with
CHEF’S TIP › To clean an oyster, wrap one hand with a towel and hold the oyster. Starting at the narrow tip of the hinged end, pry open the shell with an oyster knife. Slide the knife under the oyster and against the shell to remove the oyster and cut the muscle (discard the muscle). Reserve the oyster and dip the shell into salted
water to remove the grit.