Nothing says “Holiday Appetizer” more than oysters on the half shell, especially in the Atlantic region. This recipe is a variation of the traditional Oysters Rockefeller which originated at Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans in 1899. It was created as a substitution for escargot, which apparently the French-descendent locals could not live without. To make up for the region’s lack of tasty snails, this rich appetizer (so rich in fact that is was named after John D. Rockefeller) was conceived using America’s prolific oysters. This Galley Pirate’s variation of Oysters Rockefeller uses arugula (a.k.a. “rocket” or “roquette”) instead of the traditional spinach. The special occasion for this extraordinary “docktail” was EYC’s Parade of Lights on a very snowy evening in downtown Annapolis.
This doesn’t look like Oysters Rocket Feller, does it? No, this is what happens when you invite a culinary rockstar onboard…she outshines the pirates. Alyson brought some tasty, cheesy, yummy blackberry jam, Brie and sage pinwheels. Maybe I can talk her into doing this on board! Yeah, right?!?
There are oodles of Oysters Rockefeller recipes, no two alike. Some use bacon and celery leaves; some omit a sauce or parmesan. This just happens to be my favorite creation, not the quickest or easiest, as it includes a Béarnaise Sauce, but dare I say the best oysters you’ve ever had. Just putting that out there… ; )
Let’s start out first with making the Béarnaise Sauce, which can be made ahead and set aside. This sauce is basically a Hollandaise with the addition of fresh tarragon and cayenne. Galley Pirates has two different Hollandaise Sauce recipes in Brunch with Mom’s Magic Sauces and Soft Shelled Crab Benediction or you can follow these directions:
9 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large or 4 medium egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1-2 pinches cayenne pepper
Melt butter in a small pan on your stove. While the butter is melting, separate your eggs and place the yolks in your hand cranked processor with the beater element attached. Add the lemon juice, fresh tarragon, salt and cayenne and beat for about 30 seconds.
While beating, slowly pour in the melted butter and continue to crank for one to two minutes until thickened.
Set the sauce aside and begin shucking two dozen oysters. As it was, we set our shucking aside as well and stepped out of the galley to watch 50+ boats go by, all gussied up in their finest lights and blasting holiday music…from Frank Sinatra to Mannheim Steamroller.
My skipper fancied up a pot of great spiced rum and hot cider for everyone to take out onto the snowy docks. “Don’t slip!” were his words of wisdom.
Back to the oysters. When selecting oysters, I tend to like the small, oval shaped ones. It’s good to have them all about the same size no matter what size you choose. I purchased one dozen Blue Point and one dozen Chincoteague. It would have been helpful if I had kept straight which bag was which. Well, they both ended up being delicious.
If you’re lucky as I was, your skipper will join in the fun and shuck your oysters for you. For Best Practices in Oyster Shucking see Galley Pirates’ Oyster Bisque recipe which gives you detailed instructions.
Heat your galley oven to 400º and spread 1/4″ of rock salt on a large flat pan. Place you shucked oysters on the bed of rock salt.
Oysters Rocket FellerFor a print-friendly recipe see below
1 garlic clove
2 cups loosely packed arugula
1 cup watercress (or celery leaves), stems trimmed
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Pernod (or other anise-flavored liqueur)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 pound (about) rock salt
24 fresh oysters, shucked, shells reserved
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter. Place arugula, watercress and green onions into a hand cranked or electric food processor. Press one clove of garlic on top.
Add warm butter. Process until mixture is finely chopped.
Add breadcrumbs, Pernod, fennel seeds and hot sauce in processor. Process until blended.
Top each oyster with 1 tablespoon arugula mixture.
Drizzle Béarnaise sauce over each oyster…
…and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
Bake in your preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. If you have an broiler, light it now. Crack your oven door open and broil for about 5 minutes, until the oysters brown on top. You may need to rearrange them with tongs to get the best direct heat.
Serve hot with lemon wedges.
I made these a little spicier than usual tonight so beer was the preferred accompanying beverage over this pirate’s preference of champagne. Delicious!
A variation of traditional Oysters Rockefeller, using arugula instead of spinach.
- 1 Garlic clove
- 2 cups Arugula
- 1 cup Watercress (or celery leaves)
- 1/2 cup Scallions, chopped
- 3/4 cup Butter (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1/4 cup Bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp Pernod (or other anise-flavored liqueur)
- 1 tsp Fennel seeds, ground
- 1 tsp Hot pepper sauce
- 1 lb Rock salt
- 24 Fresh oysters
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 9 tbsp Butter
- 4 Large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp Fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp Fresh tarragon, minced
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1-2 pinches Cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 400º or hotter. Melt the butter.
Place a layer of rock salt on a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan.
Shuck 24 oysters. Discard top shell. Detach oyster muscle from bottom shell but leave in the shell. Place the oysters on the pan of rock salt.
Press 1 garlic clove into a hand cranked or electric food processor. Add arugula, watercress and green onions to garlic. Process until mixture is finely chopped.
Pour in hot butter and continue cranking for 1 minute. Add breadcrumbs, Pernod, fennel and hot sauce in processor. Process until blended.
Place a spoonful of arugula mixture on each oyster.
Pour a spoonful of Béarnaise sauce on each oyster. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes until bubbly. Turn on broiler and let broil until the tops are golden, about 5 minutes. Serve hot with lemon wedges.
Melt butter in a small pan on your stove. While the butter is melting, separate your eggs and place the yolks in your hand cranked processor with the beater element attached. Add the lemon juice, salt and cayenne and beat for about 30 seconds. While beating, slowly pour in the melted butter and continue to crank for one to two minutes until thickened.