Smoked Oyster Dip Margie’s Oyster Soup Oysters Rockefeller
Oyster recipes: Smoked Oyster Dip, Margie’s Oyster Soup and more
These oyster recipes could be included in your Mardi Gras festivities.
By Bill Daley
Brush aside the beads and booze, the crowds and the krewes, and what is Mardi Gras in New Orleans all about? The food, baby, the food. And it’s the Crescent City’s festive array of oyster dishes that can give a real kick to your Fat Tuesday party March 8.
For pure if decadent simplicity, nothing beats a platter of oysters preening on their half shells. Have plenty of lemon wedges, shakers of Louisiana hot sauce and bottles of iced sparkling wine within easy reach. But don’t stop with raw oysters, no matter how delicious. New Orleans is also home to such famous cooked dishes as oysters Rockefeller, oysters Bienville and the ubiquitous po’ boy, often called “the peacemaker” because errant husbands would bring one home to soothe an irritated wife.
Elizabeth Williams, president of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, said the region’s historic oyster bounty prompted cooks to come up with a variety of ways to cook them.
“They were tired of raw,” she said. “Because we had a lot of French influences, oysters were often used in recipes where snails were not available. They were looking at escargot recipes and using oysters.
“If you could cook snails with bread crumbs, butter and parsley, you could cook oysters that way.”
Judy Walker, newspaper food editor and co-author of “Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans,” agrees the availability and abundance of oysters led New Orleans cooks to experiment with recipes. She said another spur to innovation is the fact that Louisiana oysters are particularly delicious cooked.
“It’s the texture, I think, and you could get really big ones and they’d just cook beautifully,” she said.
Oysters work well at Mardi Gras time because the weather is relatively cold, even in New Orleans.
“The cooler the water, the sweeter the oysters,” Williams said. “Our oysters tend to be more tender, a bit salty and sweet at the same time.”
Smoked Oyster Dip
Makes 3 cups
This simple recipe from “Hooks, Lies & Alibis,” written by John D. Folse and Michaela D. York, uses canned smoked oysters.
4 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled,
2 tablespoons fat reserved
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, diced
1 can smoked oysters, finely chopped, with juice
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup diced red onions
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1. Stir cooked bacon, hard-cooked eggs, smoked oysters, mayonnaise, onions, celery, pepper and lemon juice together in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, granulated garlic and hot sauce to taste. Transfer dip to a serving dish, spread so the top is even. Cover, refrigerate 24 hours. Serve chilled with crackers or garlic croutons.
Margie’s Oyster Soup
Makes 10 servings
The late chef Warren Leruth privately printed a recipe booklet in 1983 to mark the 20th anniversary of his restaurant, LeRuth’s. This soup from his mother-in-law, Marie Margarite Huet Rizzuto, was included. Judy Walker, food editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, published the recipe in “Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans.”
4 dozen freshly shucked oysters, with their liquor
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 bunches green onions, white and green parts, chopped
3 ribs celery heart, finely chopped
1 yellow onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
3/4 cup flour
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
White pepper, ground red pepper
1. Poach oysters gently in their own liquor until plumped, 5-10 minutes. Drain, reserving liquor. Add enough water to the liquor to measure 2 quarts.
2. Heat butter in a large soup pot over medium heat; add celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in flour to make a smooth paste. Slowly whisk in oyster liquor and cream. Heat until just boiling. Add parsley and oysters. Add salt and peppers to taste. Serve hot.
Nutrition information: Per serving: 253 calories, 68 percent of calories from fat, 19 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 74 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 270 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
Makes 6 servings
Chef John D. Folse writes in his Louisiana cookbook, “Hooks, Lies & Alibis,” that this dish was named for oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller because it was so rich. Here’s the version published by Folse.
3 dozen fresh-shucked oysters, liquid, shells reserved
6 cups rock salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup minced onions
1/2 cup minced celery
1/2 cup minced garlic
6 to 8 cups packed spinach leaves or 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen spinach, thawed
2 cups sliced green onion tops
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chopped watercress
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Pernod
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1. Wash oyster shells well, scrape off any dirt. Place 1 cup rock salt on each of six serving plates.
2. Melt butter over medium high heat in a saucepan. Add onions, celery and garlic; cook until wilted, 3-5 minutes. Add spinach, green onions, parsley and watercress; cook, stirring, until vegetables are wilted. Sprinkle in flour and Pernod; stir to mix. Add ketchup and oyster liquid. Stir well, simmer 2-3 minutes. Add Worcestershire and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Place contents of saucepan in a food processor; puree. If mixture becomes too loose, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour to thicken slightly. Adjust seasonings. Cool slightly.
4. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place oyster shells on baking sheets. Place 1 oyster in the center of each shell. Divide the Rockefeller sauce equally over oysters. Bake until hot and bubbly, 10-15 minutes. Place six oysters in a circle over rock salt on each plate.
Nutrition information: Per serving: 279 calories, 53 percent of calories from fat, 17 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 62 mg cholesterol, 26 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 899 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
Buying Oysters Makes Ecological Sense
Oysters are like wine, tea and cigars — they taste of where they came from. Only five oyster species are cultivated commercially in North America, but they are identified and sold under hundreds of names, mostly geographic, to denote that special sense of place that makes an oyster from Prince Edward Island taste and look different than an oyster from Delaware Bay. North American oysters are divided into two groups: East Coast, including the Gulf of Mexico, and West Coast.
Eating oysters is a sound ecological choice, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. The California-based program grades seafood on where it comes from and how it is caught (seafoodwatch.org).
Farmed oysters, marketed under such names as American oyster, Blue Points, common oyster or kaki, are considered a “best choice” by Seafood Watch no matter where the farmed oysters are raised. Wild-caught oysters from the United States, Canada and the Gulf of Mexico are considered a “good alternative.”
“Farmed oysters also are on our Super Green list,” noted Ken Peterson, the aquarium’s communications director. “Good for the environment, low in contaminants and with optimal levels of omega-3 fatty acids for heart health.