Why It Works
- Using fresh herbs instead of spinach brightens up this classic New Orleans dish and deepens the flavor.
- Cooking the vegetables separately from their greens results in a vibrantly colored topping rather than the usual sad army green.
- Broiling instead of baking the oysters ensures they brown on top without overcooking.
Oysters Rockefeller is a decadent New Orleans classic that is often imitated but rarely duplicated—because the original recipe is a carefully guarded secret. This version ditches the spinach found in most attempts at recreating the dish (despite there being no evidence to support its inclusion) and brightens things up with fresh herbs.
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, softened and divided
- 2 large shallots (4 ounces; 115g), thinly sliced
- 2 celery ribs (3 1/2 ounces; 100g), thinly sliced, plus 1/4 cup (1/4 ounce; 6g) celery leaves, divided
- 1/2 fennel bulb (3 1/2 ounces; 100g), cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved
- 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 scallions (2 ounces; 60g), white and green parts divided and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) absinthe (optional, see note)
- 3 cups (1 1/2 ounces; 40g) fresh parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup (1 ounce; 30g) panko bread crumbs
- Rock (ice cream) salt (see note)
- 24 fresh oysters, scrubbed
- Lemon wedges, for serving
In a medium (3-quart) saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots, sliced celery ribs, fennel bulb, garlic, scallion whites, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, have released all their liquid, and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in absinthe. Transfer mixture to food processor bowl.
Process vegetables, scraping down sides of food processor bowl as needed, into a coarse paste, about 30 seconds. Stop processor and add parsley, celery leaves, fennel fronds, and scallion greens to food processor bowl. Continue processing until herbs are broken down and well-combined with vegetable mixture, about 30 seconds. With food processor still running, gradually add remaining 4 tablespoons butter, making sure butter is emulsified into paste before adding more. Stop processor and add panko bread crumbs. Pulse mixture until bread crumbs are fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt, erring on the side of less salt, since the oysters are briny. Transfer mixture to disposable pastry bag or small mixing bowl, and set aside. If using a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic against surface of the paste to prevent skin from forming. If not serving immediately, mixture can be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 day; let sit at room temperature to soften before using, about 30 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to 6 inches below the broiler element and preheat the broiler on high. Line rimmed baking sheet with an even 1/2-inch layer of rock salt. Shuck oysters and arrange them on prepared baking sheet. Pipe or spoon butter topping over oysters, and then use an offset spatula or butter knife to smooth topping and fully cover each oyster.
Broil oysters, checking them frequently, until topping begins to brown and oysters are warmed through, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve immediately, passing lemon wedges at the table.
Absinthe is the original booze of choice for making oysters Rockefeller, but you can substitute other anise-flavored liqueurs, such as Pernod or Herbsaint. You can also leave alcohol out entirely.
If you don't have rock salt, don't fret. A scrunched up piece of aluminum foil can also hold the oysters in place on the baking sheet during the broiling step. For serving, mix a couple lightly beaten egg whites with kosher salt to form a wet paste that you can perch the finished oysters on.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Topping can be refrigerated overnight. Always keep plastic pressed directly against the surface of the topping when storing it, to avoid allowing a skin to form. Let topping sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to fully soften before using it.