Back in 1899, Antoine’s in New Orleans served the first Oysters Rockefeller. Most restaurants that delve into bivalves serve a version of this sinfully-rich take on John D. Rockefeller’s namesake dish. The creamy, cheesy sauce robes the oyster meat with crunchy bacon and buttery bread crumb topper. An oldie but a goodie, this appetizer deserves a special place on your holiday menu, but I could make a meal of it any day of the week.
It’s that easy: Pernod is a licorice or fennel flavored liquor from France. A touch of it can make seafood dishes sing, so if you have some in your liquor cabinet add it, but if you have to buy a bottle just for this dish, go ahead and skip it if you like. The dish is fabulous either way.
- Cook time:
- Prep time:
- Total time:
- 1 cup kale, stems removed
- 2 green onions
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon Italian parsley
- 3 slices bacon
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 3/4 cup milk plus more if needed
- 1/4 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
- (Optional) 1 tablespoon Pernod or other anise-flavored liquor
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- About 3 pounds kosher salt for baking and serving
- 18 fresh oysters, shells scrubbed, shucked, on the half shell
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- On a large cutting board, chop the kale finely, discarding tough stems. Slice the onion thinly, both white and green parts and mince the garlic and parsley in separate piles.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook, turning, until crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and crumble into small pieces. Reserve.
- To the hot fat in the pan, add the kale, green onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the milk and half-and-half and continue to stir until it thickens, 1 minute. Stir in the cheese until it melts, 1 minute. Stir in the parsley, Pernod, if using, and hot pepper sauce. Taste and add salt if needed and a few grinds of pepper. Keep warm. If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it with a little more milk
- Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the panko.
- Spread the kosher salt over a baking sheet to a depth of about 1/2-inch. Arrange the oysters in half shells on top of the salt, making sure that they are stable and won’t roll over. Top each oyster with a tablespoon or so of the sauce mixture, a crumble of bacon and sprinkle with a sprinkle of the panko mixture.
- Bake the oysters in the upper rack of the oven until the crumbs brown and the edges of the oysters begin to curl, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- While the oysters are cooking, pour about 1/2-cup of the kosher salt onto each of 6 serving plates. Carefully arrange the hot oysters on top of the salt (make sure they are stable before you carry them to the table) and serve immediately.
In the glass: Glorious champagne!