Step into culinary excellence with Oysters Rockefeller, an enduring dish that has delighted food enthusiasts for generations. Born in the vibrant New Orleans restaurant scene, this classic creation continues to captivate palates worldwide.
So, join us as we unlock the captivating world of Oysters Rockefeller, where culinary artistry meets the sheer delight of fresh seafood.
History of the dish
Oysters Rockefeller, a beloved dish of the seafood world, has a rich and intriguing history. Its origins are in the late 19th century at Antoine’s, a legendary New Orleans, Louisiana restaurant.
It bears the name of John D. Rockefeller, the wealthy industrialist who was the richest man of his time. The inspiration for its name came from the richness and luxury of the sauce that covered the oysters, which is as rich as Rockefeller himself.
The exact recipe for Oysters Rockefeller remains a closely guarded secret even to this day. The original recipe, created by Jules Alciatore, the son of Antoine Alciatore, founder of Antoine’s, contained a blend of green herbs, spinach, butter, breadcrumbs, and other secret ingredients. They combine to create a rich and flavorful sauce that perfectly complements the briny oysters.
The dish became an instant sensation and gained popularity in New Orleans, across the United States, and beyond. It was regarded as a luxurious delicacy and a symbol of high society, often served at formal dinners and special occasions.
Over time, variations of Oysters Rockefeller emerged, with chefs adding personal twists and adaptations to the original recipe. While the exact ingredients may differ, the dish’s essence—succulent oysters topped with a flavorful, herb-infused sauce—remains a constant.
Today, Oysters Rockefeller continues to captivate food enthusiasts with its unique blend of flavors and its association with indulgence and sophistication. As a result, it has become a classic appetizer in many seafood restaurants worldwide, allowing diners to savor a taste of culinary history while enjoying the timeless delight of fresh oysters.
How to open the oysters
Opening oysters can initially seem intimidating, but it becomes straightforward with the proper technique and tools. Here’s a step-by-step guide to opening oysters:
- Gather the necessary tools: You’ll need an oyster knife or a sturdy, blunt knife with a short, strong blade. Having a kitchen towel or glove is also helpful to protect your hand.
- Clean the oyster: Scrub the shells under cold water to remove dirt or debris. This step is essential to ensure cleanliness before opening.
- Secure the oyster: Hold the oyster firmly with the rounded side down, using the kitchen towel or glove to protect your hand. Locate the hinge—the pointy end where the two shells meet.
- Insert the knife: With the blade’s tip, gently but firmly insert it into the hinge. Apply pressure and twist the knife to pry the shells apart. Be cautious not to push too hard to avoid injuring yourself or damaging the oyster.
- Cut the muscle: Once it starts to open and the shells have begun to separate, slide the knife along the top shell to cut the muscle that connects the oyster to the shell. This muscle is what keeps the oyster closed.
- Open the shell: After cutting the muscle, lift the top one away from the oyster. Be careful not to spill the oyster’s liquid (known as the “liquor”) inside the shell, as it contributes to the flavor.
- Detach the oyster: Now, use the knife to detach the oyster from the bottom shell. Slide the knife under the oyster, gently cutting the remaining muscle.
- Check for shell fragments: Inspect the oyster to ensure no shell fragments have fallen in it. Remove any shell pieces with the knife or your fingers.
- Serve or store: Once the oyster is detached and cleaned, it’s ready to be served on a bed of ice or prepared according to your recipe. If not serving immediately, store the oysters on a tray, cup-side down, in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.
Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to opening oysters. So take your time, use caution, and soon you’ll master the technique, allowing you to enjoy the delicate treasures within these beautiful bivalves.
What you need
- Fresh oysters: Look for plump, fresh oysters on the half-shell. The number of oysters will depend on the servings you plan to make.
- Spinach: Typically, Oysters Rockefeller recipes call for cooked spinach. You can use fresh spinach leaves or frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained.
- Herbs: Traditional recipes include parsley, tarragon, and chervil. These herbs add a fresh and aromatic flavor to the dish.
- Shallots: Shallots provide a mild onion-like flavor and are often finely chopped and cooked with spinach.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is used for sautéing the spinach and shallots and will add richness to the sauce.
- Bread crumbs: Use fine breadcrumbs to create a topping for the oysters. They add a crispy texture when baked.
- Anise-flavored liqueur (optional): Some variations of Oysters Rockefeller include a splash of anise-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod or Herbsaint. They will add an extra layer of complexity to the dish.
- Salt and pepper: Use these seasonings to enhance the dish’s flavors.
It’s worth noting that there are numerous variations of the Oysters Rockefeller recipe, and chefs may add their personal twists or additional ingredients. However, the above ingredients represent the core elements of this classic dish.
How to make them
- Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C).
- Clean the oyster shells under cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Arrange the oysters on a baking sheet lined with rock salt or crumpled foil to keep them steady.
- In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped shallots and sauté until they become translucent and fragrant.
- Add the cooked spinach to the skillet and mix it with the shallots; stir to combine them well. Cook for a few minutes until any excess moisture evaporates. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove the skillet from heat and let the spinach mixture cool slightly.
- In a separate bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Spoon a generous amount of the spinach mixture over each oyster on the baking sheet, covering them evenly.
- Make the hollandaise sauce and add a generous spoon on top of the spinach mixture.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumb and Parmesan mixture over the top of each oyster, pressing gently to adhere.
- Place the baking sheet with the prepared oysters in the preheated oven. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown and crispy.
- Once cooked, remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the Oysters Rockefeller cool for a minute or two.
- Serve the Oysters Rockefeller immediately, garnished with lemon wedges for squeezing fresh lemon juice over each oyster before enjoying.
How to serve them
- Presentation: Arrange the Oysters Rockefeller on a large serving platter or individual plates. Present them on their half-shells, with the flavorful topping covering the oyster meat.
- Garnish: Consider adding a touch of visual appeal by garnishing the platter with fresh herbs, such as parsley or chervil, which complement the dish’s flavors. Alternatively, sprinkle some additional breadcrumbs or a light dusting of grated Parmesan cheese on top.
- Accompaniments: Serve Oysters Rockefeller with lemon wedges on the side. Squeezing fresh lemon juice over the oysters before eating can provide a refreshing tang that balances the dish’s richness. You can also offer small bowls of mignonette sauce (a vinegar-based sauce with shallots and pepper) or cocktail sauce for those who prefer additional flavor options.
- Wine Pairing: This dish pairs well with a variety of wines. Consider serving a crisp, dry white wine like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc or a sparkling wine like Champagne or Prosecco. These wines complement the salty flavor of the oysters and provide a refreshing contrast to the dish’s richness.
- Serving Instructions: Oysters Rockefeller are typically served hot or warm. Provide small forks or cocktail picks for guests to pick up the oysters and savor each bite easily. Please encourage your guests to enjoy the dish immediately to fully appreciate the flavors and textures while they are still fresh and warm.
Remember, Oysters Rockefeller is considered a luxurious and indulgent dish, so presenting it with care and attention to detail can enhance the dining experience and make it a memorable part of your meal.
Even though this Oysters Rockefeller Recipe is indulgent and perfect for company, it is so easy to put together. Try some today!
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I hope you enjoyed the recipe today!
Enjoy. And have fun cooking!
- 12 oysters, we use Barrier Island Oysters
For Spinach Layer
- 2 tsp Olive Oil
- 3 Tbsp shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 oz baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 Tbsp butter, separated into 4 pieces IMPORTANT! Must be room temperature
- 1 juice from half of a lemon, about 1 tablespoon
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1 dash white pepper, you can substitute black but the sauce won’t be as pretty
- Shuck oysters and remove the small shell (lid) and discard. Remove oyster from shell, set aside.
For Spinach Layer
- Add oil to large sauté pan, over medium heat. Add onion to soften. Add garlic and sauté another few minutes, until they soften.
- Add spinach all at once. Let it wilt for about 30 seconds and then turn over with spatula. Continue cooking and turning until just wilted. Remove from heat, set aside.
- Preheat oven to high broil. Lay about 1 heaping tablespoon spinach mixture on the bottom oyster shell. Then lay 1 oyster one top of each. Continue with Hollandaise.
For Hollandaise Sauce
- Ingredients MUST be at room temperature.
- Add a little water to the bottom pot of a double boiler and bring to low boil. Make sure the water in the bottom pot doesn’t hit the top pot. Reduce heat to simmer.
- Add water, lemon juice, pepper and eggs yolks to the top pot and whisk together. Whisk constantly. ( I have a mini whisk that works great for this. If you don’t have one, just use a fork.) You will see the egg start to stick to the sides of the double boiler.
- Add butter, one tablespoon at a time, until fully melted. By the time you add the the 3rd tablespoon of butter, you should see the sauce start to thicken. If the pan is too hot, the sauce will really stick to the sides of the double boiler. Just remove the top pot from the bottom and continue to whisk until sauce comes together. Add the last tablespoon of butter. When that has melted, the sauce should be shiny, smooth and overall, luscious.
- Add about 1 Tablespoon Hollandaise Sauce on top of each oyster. If you need to prop the oysters up, use crushed up aluminum foil to level. (It depends on the oyster variety you use.)
- Broil just until Hollandaise is a lovely browned color, about 2 minutes, watching carefully not to over brown.
- Serve immediately!
Originally published March 23, 2018. Updated May 12, 2023.
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you can used course salt on a baking sheet to hold up the oysters, works well.
Yes, we’ve done that too. Thanks for checking out the recipe Alex!
I had Rockefeller at the casino in Primm, NV. These were like Clams Casino, with breadcrumbs and flambeed with Cognac…just delicious!
Oooh! That sounds so delicious! Would love to try that! Thanks Tom!
This looks insaaaaaaaane! (In the best way.) I recently had raw oysters and they were so so good. It’s definitely not for everyone, haha, but when they’re fresh and high-quality, dang! I’ve also enjoyed breaded + deep-fried oysters in po’boy sandwiches and tacos. But somehow, I’ve missed the Rockefeller train. I need to fix this ASAP!
Haha! Thanks so much, Dana! I have yet to delve into raw! I’m chicken!! 🙂
Rich oyster with spinach and hollandaise sauce sounds terrific, spinach works well with any dish. These can be a great starter for the party or get-together.
I agree! I could eat spinach with anything and everything! Thanks, Jagruti!
Oh these oysters look amazing! Such great flavors and simple to make.
Absolutely simple to make! Thanks so much, Jessica!
boy after looking at these delicious photo I am ashamed to say I never had an oyster I am now inspired!
Honestly, I hadn’t until last summer! They are soooo much better clams, IMHO! Give them a try! Thanks, Claudia!