The original recipe for oysters rockefeller is credited to Jules Alciatore of Antoine’s in New Orleans in 1899. It was a twist on a dish Antoine’s had been doing with snails and named for John D. Rockefeller, who had seemingly little connection to the area but was the richest man in America at the time, so perhaps Jules was hoping to attract him as a customer.
There are many variations of this recipe. Some use spinach or celery, others cheese. A lazy version used hollandaise sauce flamed under the broiler. Many variations add hot pepper sauce, which comes from the region, or Pernod, of which New Orleans has its own version (Herbsaint). Anchovies and Worcestershire sauce sometimes appear, too, but the real ingredients on which this recipe should rely are garlic and parsley.
Preheat the broiler to the hottest possible setting. Shuck the oysters into a medium-size pan, reserving their liquid. Wash out the shells, lay each oyster back in a cleaned shell, and set on a tray to rest. In a small saucepan over medium heat, sweat the garlic in the butter. Add the mixed greens. Mix the breadcrumbs and oyster liquid together, then add to the herb butter. Cover each oyster generously with the mix. Broil for 30 seconds or until the top starts to brown. Serve with lemon wedges.
Lily’s first experience of Oyster Rockefeller was thirty years ago and when we were in Lexington, Ky we frequented a seafood restaurant in the Lexington Green to have it. It is kind of baked oyster with spinach and cheese on it. Lily loves this kind of Oyster Rockefeller although we did know that these were not real Oyster Rockefeller, but just imitation.
The real Oyster Rockefeller was invented in 1899 by jules Alciatore.He was motivated by an escargot shortage, for Snails Bourguignonne, a popular dish at Antoine’s, required the imported mollusks. Alciatore needed a similar appetizer, using the local oysters, to push as a substitute. At the time, cooked oysters were almost unheard of. Oysters were expected to be served raw, on crushed ice. Alciatore served his cooked oyster creation on a snowbank as synthetic as a shopping mall’s Santa’s Village - a bed of hot rock salt. You only can have the really Oyster Rockefeller in the restaurant of Antoine’s in the middle of the French Quart since the recipes are secret. As the reputation of Antoine’s increased over the years, it came to be known for the secrecy of its dishes as much as their quality. Recipes were passed from father to son to grandson. Talented New Orleans chefs tended to work their way up to Antoine’s and remain there for the rest of their careers. Defections to other restaurants were few.
While spinach is the main ingredient in most cookbook recipes for Oyster Rockefeller and in the “ Oyster Rockefeller” served in other restaurants all over the world, Antonie’s announced many times that the real Oyster Rockefeller has a mixture of a lot of vegetables and spices except spinach.
I and Lily specially went to Antonie’s several times to have the “ real ” Oyster Rockefeller" but to my surprise Lily did not like it. Lily prefers these imitating Oyster Rockefeller cooked with spinach.
This time we went to the famous Pier 424 Seafood Market on Bourbon St. We ordered their Oyster Rockefeller ( surely baked with spinach ) and Oyster Royale. The Oyster Rockefeller tasted very good. I liked the Oyster Royale which was baked with crab meat and scallop.