Roasted Oysters

roasted oysters in a cast iron tray

These oysters are as ‘Rich as Rockefeller!’

My husband Brett and I have an obsession with oysters, but specifically roasted oysters. It started a while back after a weekend trip to Newport, Rhode Island where seafood is abundant and can be found at every eatery. We were out late night and saw a tray of roasted oysters go by, namely the most famous of roasted oysters – Oysters Rockefeller. We had to have them. And then we had to have more.

And there it began….our obsession with the history of Oysters Rockefeller and roasted oysters in general.

After doing a deep dive, we learned that there is a long history, and a bit of a mystery, surrounding the original Oysters Rockefeller recipe. 

The History of Oysters Rockefeller – the most famous of all roasted oysters.

In 1840 Antoine Alciatore opened the doors to “Antoines” – a French Creole restaurant in New Orleans. Antoine’s was a thriving restaurant that specialized in amongst other things, escargot. After Antoine’s death, his son Jules Alciatore took over as head chef and the restaurant continued to thrive.

On a late night in 1899, a hungry unnamed person ordered Antoine’s Escargot, but the Escargot had been 86’d. (That means they ran out.) Not discouraged but certainly disappointed, he asked the chef to create him something from the kitchen. It was late, and only scraps of vegetables lay around the kitchen. Inspired by the butter and herb mixture used to make the escargot, the chef combined these scraps with Oysters and baked them.  Upon tasting the dish the hungry man exclaimed, “Why this is as rich as Rockefeller!” Thus, the legend of oysters rockefeller was born.

Jules Alciatore went to his grave with the original recipe that was born that night. However, Antoine’s restaurant is still turning out the same dish to this very day in New Orleans. They keep their recipe a secret and it seems that no one will ever know how close todays version is to the one created that night back in 1899.

What are the ingredients of Oysters Rockefeller?

Oysters Rockefeller Ingredients

With the story above as our inspiration, we got to thinking. What ingredients were available in New Orleans in 1899? What would have been in the kitchen? Antoine’s was almost 60 years old when they invented Oyster Rockefeller which means they had established dishes, recipes, clientele, and chefs. That would have played a part in the creation. There are numerous reports of it being a bright green color, which if you have ever seen escargot before it is cooked, you know this is common with this dish as well. Was that all it was? Could it be the recipe for escargot applied to oysters? Or was there more to it? We think a little bit of both.

Likely it was the escargot sauce elevated with less garlic and the addition of new herbs and greens to compliment the briny taste and delicate texture of the oyster.

Keep in mind- Oysters were a main source of food in America dating back to the first settlers. Oysters were plentiful all over the United States, and even were shipped on trains before beef was shipped. The point here is that the chef at Antoines knew how to cook Oysters. He was a talented chef who knew how to handle oysters and how to cook traditional french snails. He most likely simply adapted the classic escargot recipe that Antoine’s had been severing for 60 years and there you have it.

We tested a few different approaches including with cream and without, with cheese and without, with spinach and without. Here is what we discovered in our test kitchen – any oyster baked with butter, herbs and cheese in any combination will never disappoint. So we started roasted oysters obsessively!

How to Select Oysters for Roasting

When selecting oysters to roast or grill, tell your fish monger you are looking for oysters with a belly shape, not flat ones. This will provide a plumper cooked oyster and also keep them protected in the shell while roasting which prevents them from drying out.

Special Equipment

I purchased a Cast Iron Roasting tray from Sur La Table made for roasting oysters. While this makes it easier if you roast oysters often, you can also simply use a sheet pan and some tin foil to create some supports to nestle the oysters.

Roasted Oysters in Tray

Roasted Oysters

These baked oysters are succulent and rich and oh so delicious! 
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Seafood

Ingredients
  

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (and/or any combination of basil, tarragon or chives)
  • 1/8 cup minced celery with leaves (optional, but recommend!)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 ounces gruyere cheese (or similar nutty cheese)
  • Sprinkle of breadcrumbs- optional
  • 12-24 fresh oysters (in the shell)

Instructions
 

  • If you have a oyster roasting pan now is the time to use that! If you don’t, prepare a baking sheet with a roasting grate to support the oysters, or make a bed of dried rice or rock salt to nestle the oysters into on the sheet pan to keep them supported so they do not spill their liquor or the butter sauce you will add.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 
  • Open the oysters with an oyster knife. (if you don’t know how to safely do this, don’t make this recipe!)  
  • Meanwhile, melt together the butter, herbs, shallots, lemon zest, garlic and a dash of salt and pepper. (Feel free to add a dash of white wine) Be careful not to burn the butter sauce but cook it enough to cook down the shallots and garlic. 
  • Once all oysters are in place on your roasting tray, add a heaping teaspoon of the melted butter mixture on top of each oyster. Top with about a teaspoon of shredded cheese followed by a pinch of breadcrumbs, if using. 
  • Roast the oysters until the the oysters are just cooked through and the cheese is melted and turning golden brown. (About 8 to 10 minutes) Serve immediately.

Notes

If your cheese is not browning or you really want a nice dark brown color, Put the oysters on broil for the last 2 minutes.  
Keyword oysters

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2 thoughts on “Roasted Oysters”

  1. So good. I only put maybe 1/2 tsp of Swiss/gruyere on them and a sprinkle of panko. They weren’t getting very brown so I put them under the broiler to finish them off. Just right!

    Reply
    • Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed them! I made them on New Years Eve for my husband and myself along with our favorite spicy crab dip and a bottle of champs 🙂
      I’m going to update the post to include the tip about the broiler because I do find I need to do that as well sometimes, especially depending on the cheese variety.

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