There’s something captivating about the entire Roux family. I used to think it was just the brothers (see earlier post), but the mischievous gene has been passed on to the next generation, specifically the younger Michel. On his BBC show, junior cooks French classics such as pigeon with peas, fennel-stuffed bass, morel and sweetbread-filled pigs trotter, and prune-stuffed rabbit saddle. I’ve never heard of any of this stuff-always thought classic meant soufflé-but maybe these are the burgers of France.
Funny, then, that Msr. Roux chose to make Oysters Rockefeller, a quintessentially American plate of food: something I associate with robber barons and businessmen and tourists at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. But he chose the dish because its creation requires a handful of essential kitchen skills.
An Oyster Rockefeller (let’s use the singular, though I guess you can get a bunch) is a truly gilded lily. A plump, briny oyster is nestled in a bed of creamed spinach, coated with a rich thin custard, and broiled. The result is a warm, briny cream sandwich.
Back to the basic skills. You need to emulsify (egg with oyster liquor); squeeze dry (cooked spinach); broil gently; shuck; strain through fine mesh; temper a liquid; poach oysters very lightly. Nothing complicated, but a series of delicate steps. It’s a little ballet dance where one misstep wrecks the show.
As far as consumption, I envision tuxes, the Waldorf, and cigars. But the Cape being home of the oyster, we ate them picnic tableside washed down with growlers of Cape Cod beer. Msr. Roux would, I’m sure, appreciate.
Oysters Rockefeller (approximated via Msr. Roux)
Makes 4 oysters
4 large oysters
large handful spinach
½ cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
- Shuck oysters into a bowl and reserve in the oyster liquor.
- Steam spinach in a little water until limp. Drain, run under cold water. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop roughly. Place in a bowl. Fold in enough cream just to bind the spinach. Season and reserve.
- Strain oyster liquor into a small pan over low heat. Add oysters and poach 15 seconds, remove to a bowl. Reduce liquid by half, add remaining cream (about ¼ cup). Whisk egg yolk in a small bowl and incorporate into the cream as you would a custard: pour a bit of hot liquid into the egg to temper, whisking energetically. Pour mixture back into the pot over low heat, whisking, until creamy. Season.
- To finish, preheat broiler. Spoon a bit of spinach on each oyster shell. Top with an oyster, pour over the sauce. Place on a tray and broil until lightly browned. It could take a few minutes, but watch carefully. Serve hot.