First, imagine a place on the east coast of Florida. Early 1900s and heavy Spanish influence. The wealthiest in America are migrating in and around Daytona Beach, lead by John D. Rockefeller. All along the Halifax River and all along the mighty blue Atlantic you find beautiful mansions that are winter homes and even permanent homes for America’s millionaires – “Millionaire’s Row”. Everyone from Henry Ford to the founders of Palm Beach frequent the area and hold large parties. Many of these places still stand today and owned by a new wave of American millionaires or are simply a part of protected American history – from The Casements to The Doldrums.
If you find yourself among one of these places, Oysters Rockefeller is a great tribute to the area and the history. If you can’t be there in person, this is a delicacy that will take you there in just one bite.
Named “Rockefeller” strictly for its richness, this is a simple yet unique dish to prepare. As a bias, I of course recommend Florida oysters, but fresh oysters from any locale will do and will be your best bet.
Here’s what you need and here’s what you do:
1/3 cup chopped parsley
¼ cup celery leaves
¼ cup watercress leaves
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from French bread
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
4 lightly packed cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup Sambuca
12 fresh live oysters, shucked and shells reserved
Use a muddler to ground the parsley, celery leaves and watercress. Then chop the herb mixture with a sharp knife.
Toss the herb mixture in a large bowl with the fresh breadcrumbs and drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and toss. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper and set aside.
Place a large sauté pan over a medium to high heat and pour the olive oil into the pan. Add the shallots and sauté until just tender. Add the spinach and Sambuca and sauté until the spinach wilts and most of the juices evaporate. Once the spinach wilts, remove the pan from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Spoon 12 mounds of rock salt over a heavy, large baking sheet. Remove the oysters from their shells and set them aside on a plate. Place the spinach mixture on each oyster shell, dividing equally. Place one oyster on top of the spinach mixture in each shell. Spoon the breadcrumb mixture over the oysters, dividing equally.
Place each prepared oyster atop a mound of rock salt on the baking sheet. The mounds of rock salt will help keep the oyster shells in place and prevent them from toppling over and spilling their ingredients while they cook.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the breadcrumb mixture is golden brown. Meanwhile, form 12 mounds of rock salt on a large platter. Remove the oysters from the baking sheet and place on the mounds of rock salt on the platter and enjoy immediately.