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Recipe from The Picture Cookbook by Life
Magazine. This is the closes recipe to the original and was
developed by Roy Alciatore, one of Antoine's previous owners. I
have only slightly adapted the recipe to modern recipe writing
More of What's Cooking America's great
How To Purchase, Store, and Shuck Fresh Oysters.
Photo from Colony Grill, Fairhope, AL.
Photo from Costas Inn Restaurant.
1850 - Antoine Alciatore, the original owner of Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans,
Louisiana, made a specialty dish of snails called Snails Bourgignon which was very popular. The
restaurant, located on Rue St. Louis in the New Orleans French Quarter, was opened in 1840, and Antoine's is the country's oldest family-run restaurant.
According to Antoine
Restaurant's web site:
In 1874, Antoine being in ill-heath, took leave of his
family, with the management of the restaurant in his wife's
hands. He felt he had not much longer to live and wished to die
and be buried in his birthplace in France. He told his wife he
did not want her to watch him deteriorate and said as he left;
"As I take boat for Marseilles, we will not meet again on
earth." He died within the year.
- When Jules Alciatore took over the business, the taste for
snails had subsided, and also there was a shortage of French
snails. He wanted to use a local product in order to avoid any
difficulty in procuring it. He choose oysters and adapted
the snail recipe in 1899 to use the gulf oysters.
Jules Alciatore is known as a pioneer in the art of cooking oysters
(as they were rarely cooked before this time). According to legend, it is said that a customer exclaimed with delight after
eating this dish, "Why, this is as rich as Rockefeller!"
The dish was given the name Rockefeller because the green was the color
of greenbacks and the whole dish was so rich that he wanted a
name that would signify the "richest in the world." The first
name to come to his mind was John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), a name once connoted the absolute pinnacle of wealth and position. No other
American dish has received so much praise and attention as Oysters Rockefeller.
The original recipe is a closely-guarded Antoine's secret, though it has been imitated,
adapted, and evolved in a host of ways. The original oysters Rockefeller is said to have been made with watercress, not spinach.
Jules Alciatore exacted a promise on his deathbed that the exact proportions be kept a secret forever.
1980 - Roy F. Guste, Jr., the great-great grandson of Jules
Antoine, writes in his book Antoine's Restaurant Cookbook that "the sauce is basically a puree of a number of green vegetables
other than spinach."
Glory On The Half-Shell, by Kevin Keating, magazine article in Hemispheres Magazine, January 1997.
Oyster Cookery, by Sharon Montoya-Welsh and Marjorie
Speare-Yerxa, published by Shoalwater Kitchen, 1984.
The New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook, by Deirdre Stanforth,
published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967.
Oysters Rockefeller Recipe:
Yields: 6 servings or 36 appetizers
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 5 minutes
36 fresh (live) oysters on the half shell*
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons finely-minced fresh spinach leaves
3 tablespoons finely-minced
3 tablespoons finely-minced
5 tablespoons homemade
Tabasco Sauce to taste
1/2 teaspoon Herbsaint or Pernod**
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lemon wedges for garnish
* It is best
to use small oyster for this recipe. The oysters themselves (not
the shells) should be no more than 1 to 1 1/2 inches in
diameter. Any variety of oysters will work; just make sure the oysters you choose are as
fresh as possible, still alive, and tightly closed.
** Herbsaint and Pernod
are an aniseed flavored spirit, available where liquor is sold.
oyster knife, pry open the oyster shells, then remove the
oysters. 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, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 15
minutes. Remove from heat. Press the spinach mixture through a
sieve or food mill; let cool. Mixture may be made ahead of
time and refrigerated until ready to use.
Preheat oven broiler. Line an ovenproof
plate or platter with a layer of rock salt about 1-inch deep
(moisten the salt very slightly).
Set oysters in the rock salt, making sure they are level.
Place a little of the reserved
oyster liquor on each oyster. Spoon an equal amount of the
prepared spinach mixture over each oyster and spread to the rim of the shell.
Broil approximately 5 minutes or
until the edges of the oysters have curled and the topping is
bubbling. Watch carefully.
Garnish the plates or platter with
the parsley sprigs and the lemon wedges. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings or 36 appetizers.