This dish was created at Antoinette’s in New Orleans as an American alternative to the French classic, escargot - or “baked snails”. Oysters Rockefeller are oysters on the half shell topped with spinach and a butter sauce. The Southern dish’s namesake is oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in the world at the time the dish was created, aptly named because of the richness of the sauce topping the oysters.
If you’re looking for an appetizer for your Valentine’s Day celebrations, add this luxurious aphrodisiac to your menu alongside some glasses of champagne. I like to use a medium oyster for this dish with a fairly shallow shell, like a Wellfleet or Beausoleil oyster. Fresh oysters can be found at gourmet seafood stores and most places will shuck them and put them on ice for you if asked. If you go the “shuck it yourself” route, check out my guide here.
12 medium oysters, shucked, shells reserved
1 pound rock salt (for serving)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 clove garlic, chopped
¾ (packed) cup baby spinach, chopped
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped chives
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Loosen the oysters from the shell and set aside in a medium bowl. Arrange the rock salt in a baking dish and firmly press the shells into the salt.
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt. Add the shallots and sauté until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 15 seconds. Add the spinach, parsley, onions and tarragon and stir until the greens have wilted, about 4 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper followed by the cream.
Add the oysters back into the shells. Top with a spoonful of the greens mixture followed by the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.