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 entree is likewise rich.
(Makes 10 hors d'oeuvre servings)
- ¾ cup firmly packed watercress sprigs, finely chopped
- 1 1/3 cups firmly packed baby spinach, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
- 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 ½ tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon Pernod or other anise-flavoured liquor
- Pinch of cayenne
- 6 streaky bacon slices
- About 10 cups course rock salt for baking and serving
- 20 small oysters on the half shell, oysters picked over for shell fragments and shells scrubbed well
Toss together watercress, spinach, spring onion, parsley, celery, and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon bread crumbs in a bowl. Melt butter in a heavy fry pan 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 220C.
While watercress mixture chills, cook bacon in cleaned fry pan over moderate heat, turning, until crisp, then drain on paper towels and finely crumble.
Spread 5 cups salt in a large shallow baking tray (2 cm 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 salt (about 5 cups), on a platter.