Rockin’ oysters

Fresh and local, Island oysters make the best Oysters Rockefeller.


I was graced with two dozen gorgeous local oysters, which set my senses drooling in anticipation of my longtime favorite meal, Oysters Rockefeller. Having bragged of my skills in this arena for years, and happy to prove it by showing off my culinary expertise, I set about gathering the ingredients. Nothing beats fresh-caught, local oysters. So I am happily sharing my recipe for Oysters Rocky. You will need:

Oysters Rocky

For balancing the oysters on your baking tray, cover it first with 2 to 3 cups of any available salt, especially if using your oven and broiler. This operation is useful for the grill as well, so the loaded oysters can be transported to the grill with ease and no spillage of those balanced babies, ready for mouth-watering perfection. 

¼–½ c. fresh parsley, chopped fine
½ to 1 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 large shallot, or 2 small
¾ lb. thick bacon slices
¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 dozen oysters
a pat or two of real butter, unsalted
2 lb. fresh spinach
soy sauce (or fish sauce, or Worcestershire sauce)
1 lemon, halved
½ pint pesto sauce
½ tsp. black ground pepper, or ¼ tsp. white
¼ tsp. ground oregano
¼ tsp. French tarragon
heavy or whipping cream (just a tad)
¼ c. plain panko bread crumbs
optional, possible indulgent finishes, if you’re liquor-inclined, only a tiny splash of one or the other — dry white wine, Pernod, or a smooth sake

Preheat the oven to 375° or 400°, or prepare your grill until the fire or flame is very hot. Chop the parsley, finely shred the cheese, and chop the shallots into medium-size to fine pieces. Place the bacon slices on aluminum foil placed on a cookie sheet and put them in a 375° oven. Monitor the bacon and remove when perfectly crisp, about 15 minutes.

Start opening the oysters now. Try to time your Oysters Rocky to be assembled simultaneously as the oysters are opened. Prepare a couple of heavy-duty baking sheets with sides by loading them up with the salt.

Now, back to the filling prep: Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Sauté all of the chopped shallots on low to medium heat, adding a pat or two of butter, until evenly golden to just slightly brown. Adjust the heat to low, and immediately add as much of the spinach as your pan will allow; top with the lid. Turn the heat to medium to quickly heat the spinach. Only cook the spinach minimally; you are simply wilting it until reduced to barely cooked volume. Shut off the heat.

Add to that mixture the soy sauce, splashing very minimally to minimize oversalting, but just enough of a dash or so to moisten and bring out the flavor of the spinach mixture. Fish sauce also adds richness and body. Squeeze the lemon halves through a piece of cheesecloth or strainer into the pan. Turn on the flame once again, very low just to keep warm, mix the flavors well, and create a pleasing texture and body for applying to the oysters with a spoon. At this point, add the pesto a spoonful at a time, slurrying in to mix well at your discretion. Keep a balance of flavors so that no one ingredient overpowers or dominates; the beauty of this dish is that the flavor of the oysters is king.

Now add pepper, oregano, and tarragon to taste. This is where you sample the heady mixture for taste and texture, adjusting slightly with either a drizzle of olive oil if on the dry side, or go straight to the finale with a small splash of the heavy cream for a rich and smooth binder. Stir until a shimmery, glorious, mouthwatering mixture is ready to apply to each oyster.

The texture should be moist but not runny, bound to the spoon with each scoop to handle easily. Lightly spritz all the oysters with lemon. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle over the oysters. Next, take the prepared filling and give each oyster a generous dollop, covering the oyster body. Finally, take the grated cheese, panko bread crumbs, and about ½ or more of the chopped parsley, mix together in a small bowl, and top off your masterpieces. This is also when you can splash a touch of the suggested liquors for an exotic finish.

After placing the beauties on their heat source, closely monitor, checking often. You will see the oyster juices bubbling, and the cooking time is very fast, maybe 5 to 10 minutes. There is one more crucial step — the final browning or crisping. Take each oyster tray and slide into the broiler at the same temperature, and allow the open flame to flash off the breadcrumb-cheese mixture to a golden crispy brown. This will take a couple of seconds max. Voilà! Perfection in a shell. Parsley and lemon to garnish.

Enjoy the magic aromas, and watch your masterpiece transform the evening into a celebration of the joy and meaning of really living life to the fullest here on this blessed Island.