Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers – Lesson 63 Oysters Rockefeller

Last week I taught you how to cure your own salmon. I certainly hope that you had lots of fun thinking about delicious ways to eat it. This week I’m going to teach you a classic dish, Oysters Rockefeller. It is a dish that even those that are turned off of raw oysters will enjoy eating. Why? Because not only is the oyster cooked, but is also topped with a decadent cream and spinach sauce that will have your taste buds dancing. Before you decide that it is too difficult to make, please read on, you will be surprised at how easy it is to enjoy restaurant quality Oysters Rockefeller at home.

Before I get into the recipe, let’s talk oysters.

For this dish I like a Fanny Bay oyster. It is a large sized oyster with a creamy texture and mild flavor that lends itself to the toppings. That being said, any regional oyster that fits that size and flavor profile will work.

Now that you have your oysters, I must talk about how to open them. It is not as hard as you think and with practice, it actually becomes quite easy. My first tip is to put the oyster in the fridge for about four hours before you open them. This relaxes the muscle and makes the job much easier. Once chilled, put the oyster on a towel on the counter and secure it with your palm. Next, take the oyster knife in your other hand, slide the knife into the head of the oyster (the larger side) and go in about ½ an inch. Once the knife is in, rotate it. This will crack the oyster open. Once open, use the knife to “shuck” the oyster. This simply means running the knife under the oyster itself so it is released from the shell.

Please note, if you have an oyster that is open and that does not close when you tap it, it is dead and you can’t eat it.

Once all oysters are opened and shucked. Place them on a plate and back in the fridge.

Now, let’s get cooking!

This recipe will serve four people. You will need: eight Fanny Bay oysters (opened and shucked), two cups heavy cream, ¾ cups grated Parmesan, one cup minced fresh spinach, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, ¼ cup Pernod (an anise flavored liqueur), salt pepper, medium saucepan, small bowl, knife, spoon, oyster knife, dish towel and baking sheet. Once the oysters are shucked and in the fridge, place the saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in the cream and let it reduce by half. Next, add in the turmeric and smoked paprika. I like the turmeric because it not only adds flavor, but also a nice color. The smoked paprika lends a nice background of smoke that works well with the creaminess of this dish. Now put in the minced spinach and stir. Next add in ½ cup of the Parmesan and then salt and pepper to taste.

The next step is to add the Pernod. This is a classic ingredient in this dish and it adds a distinctive, slightly licorice flavor. When you add the Pernod, remove the pan from the heat. You do this to avoid catching the pan (and yourself) on fire. Once the Pernod is added, return the pan to the stove. The Pernod will flame, don’t be alarmed, this is just the alcohol cooking off. Lower the heat to medium and cook for three to four minutes, until the sauce thickens. Transfer it to a small bowl and put in the fridge for about three hours. You do this because you want to further thicken the cream sauce. Chilling it in the fridge turns the luscious sauce into a paste, this makes it much easier to get in the oysters.

Before stuffing and cooking the oysters let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This makes sure the oyster cooks completely as the sauce cooks. Turn your broiler on high and using a spoon, top each oyster with the chilled filling. Put enough filling on each oyster so the entire shell is filled. Once all are filled, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Broil for three minutes until the top is lightly browned and bubbly.

That’s it!

I like to serve these with lemon wedges and hot sauce. They are great as an appetizer or on a plate with a steak or chicken. Don’t be afraid to play with the recipe, add bacon, top with tomatoes, etc. Remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.

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Chef Ivan Flowers

Chef Flowers has over 25 years of fine cuisine experience. The former Executive Chef at Top of The Market, San Diego, also owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.