January 10th is National Oysters Rockefeller Day. It was first celebrated in 2017 at Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans.
If you live anywhere near New Orleans, you be rewarded with a special treat.
That’s because this weekend, Antoine’s will celebrate National Oysters Rockefeller Day with by offering orders of Oysters Rockefeller for just $5.
The legendary dish was invented in Antoine’s kitchen in 1899 by Jules Alciatore, the son of the restaurant’s namesake founder, Antoine Alciatore.
The recipe was an innovation in the art of cooked oysters, an unanticipated mother of invention.
At the end of the 19th century, there was a shortage of European snails—then a gourmet treat—arriving from Europe to New Orleans.
Jules identified a locally sourced replacement: oysters.
In creating the dish, Jules combined a buttery sauce with green vegetables, producing such a richness of flavor that he named it after one of the wealthiest men in the United States: John D. Rockefeller.
While Mr. Rockefeller reportedly despised the affiliation, grilled Oysters Rockefeller became an iconic dish.
It has approximated by chefs around the world. The original recipes a closely-guarded family secret.
Here’s one big difference:
While just about every tribute recipe tops the oysters with spinach, Antoine’s original recipe does not contain spinach. Is it watercress?
Maybe: You’ll could head to New Orleans to find out.
But even then, you’d need to be a super-taster to have any success.
To safeguard the recipe, Antoine’s has subsequently puréed the topping ingredients and piped them on top of the grilled oysters (photo #1).
When we first had them at Antoine’s decades ago, the ingredients were still recognizable—and if we had known that food writing lay in our future, we would have taken closer notice.
Most imitators top the oysters with sautéed or blanched spinach, others cream the spinach or substitute a whole blanched spinach leaf.
Some add a garnish of bread crumbs, diced bacon and/or parmesan cheese (photo #2).
We’ve even had the oysters with topped with a Mornay sauce—a béchamel sauce turned into cheese sauce with Gruyère—before adding the spinach and bacon (photo #3).
Some modern interpretations even fry the oysters and serve them with conventional “imitator” garnishes: spinach, bread crumbs, bacon.
Since you’ll never know the original recipe, you can add the ingredients that please your palate most.
It may not be “Oysters Rockefeller” as Jules Alciatore created it; but it will be your Oysters Rockefeller.
Here’s a recipe to start you off, along with more garnish ideas.
Antoine’s, an iconic New Orleans institution, is managed by fifth-generation CEO and Proprietor Rick Blount, whos estimates that the restaurant has prepared Oysters Rockefeller more than five million times since its introduction.
Beyond being known as the birthplace of Oysters Rockefeller, the legendary New Orleans restaurant is the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in the U.S. It remains owned by the same family that founded it in 1840.
The restaurant celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2015. It’s now 180, and we bet they’ll still be serving Oysters Rockefeller at age 200 and beyond.
For more information, visit Antoine’s website.
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