I always enjoy going back to classic recipes and reinventing them in a more modern way closer to my own tastes, keeping most of the same ingredients but interpreting them differently. We have always loved oysters and often get them from Steve Milowski, who has a small family operation raising oysters on Fisher Island. Other times I get them in Branford, Connecticut, where John the fisherman sells me a whole case of oysters at a very good price.
Although Gloria and I like oysters best just plain on the half shell, occasionally we cook them. I like to make a great oyster stew with leeks, where the oysters are barely cooked by being added to the stew at the last moment. For this recipe, however, I am redoing the old classic, oysters Rockefeller, although I don’t serve the oysters in the shells, as they are served traditionally. Instead, I saute spinach with garlic and a tiny bit of pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, arrange it in small mounds on individual plates, and top each mound with a raw oyster. I reserve the oyster liquid for soup or combine it with vodka to make a bullshot cocktail. The oysters in the spinach “nest” are then warmed in the oven, while a sauce of butter and shallots is made to finish the dish along with some bacon bits.–Jacques Pépin
LC Reinventing Rockefeller Note
There are few chefs we trust to reinvent classics like oysters Rockefeller. Jacques Pépin is one of those chefs.
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Clean the fresh spinach, removing and discarding the larger stems. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and, when the oil is hot but not smoking, add the spinach to the pan. Cover with a lid and cook until the spinach starts softening and reducing in volume. When it becomes soft but not yet wilted, turn it in the pan and add the chopped garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook, tossing and mixing the spinach, for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes, until it is wilted and just tender. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Open the oysters. Drain off the juice, reserving it for other uses.
Preheat the oven to 190°F (87°C).
On each of 4 ovenproof plates, spoon 6 small mounds of spinach a couple inches apart. Gently press down on the tops to make an indentation or “nest” in the center of each mound. Place a raw oyster in each of these indentations and put the plates in the oven to warm while you cook the bacon and the shallots and butter.
Arrange the bacon side by side on a ridged microwave tray. Microwave for about 5 minutes, until nicely crisped, and then cut or break the slices into 1/4-inch pieces.
Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook until it starts changing color and becoming light brown. Add the shallots, stir, and cook for about 30 seconds longer so the butter continues to cook along with the shallots.
Remove the hot plates of spinach and oysters from the oven, spoon a little shallot butter on top of each, and sprinkle with the bacon. Serve immediately.
Oysters Rockefeller Recipe © 2007 Jacques Pépin. Photo © 2007 Tom Hopkins. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission.