• Tommy Centola

Revisiting oysters in the kitchen

I often wonder how oysters were discovered. Whoever it was, they were a very valiant person. If you have ever opened oysters, you know that they were not stumbled upon. Someone must have been stranded on an island doing everything to find food.

Opening oysters are a lot of work. I have fond memories of my maternal grandfather opening oysters. My brothers and I carry on the tradition usually around Christmas time. Fortunately, the reward is worth it. Oysters are very versatile in the kitchen. From appetizers to soups and entrees, the only thing holding you back is your imagination. Today, I am sharing recipes that can either be used as appetizers or entrees: Oysters Carnival and Oyster Pan Roast. Let’s get cooking!

Here is a recipe from Chef Warren Leruth. I know this dish was not on the menu. It may have been used as a special. I think this was his answer to Oysters Mosca. It’s a dish that has everyone asking for more.

Oysters Carnival

5 cups onions, minced

1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 bay leaf, minced

4 stalks celery, minced

1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

10 tablespoons butter

4 dozen oysters, strained (reserve the liquor) and chopped

1 1/2 cup bread crumbs

36 oyster half shells, boiled and scrubbed

18 strips bacon, precooked and crispy, but not too brown, drained, with each strip cut in half

6 lemon wedges for garnish

In an iron skillet, sauté the minced onion, garlic, bay, celery and thyme in 6 tablespoons of the butter for about 15 minutes. Add the chopped oysters. Moisten 1 cup of the bread crumbs with about 1 cup of the oyster liquor. Add to the above. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of the butter and cook until the butter is melted.

Fill the oyster shell with the mixture, and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs over the top. Top with bacon pieces. To serve, heat the oysters in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until hot. Serve 6 oysters per portion, and garnish each platter with a lemon wedge.

This recipe is my recreation of a dish from Palace Cafe. This restaurant in located at the edge of the French Quarter on Canal St. This restaurant is housed in a converted music store. The owner and former chef, Dickie Brennan, really knows how to make the food sing.

Oyster Pan Roast

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup onions, diced

1/2 cup shallots, diced

1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped (white and green Parts)

36 large oysters, shucked

3 tablespoons garlic, minced

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Creole seasoning to taste

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup clarified butter

Melt the salted butter in a medium sauté pan over high heat. Sauté the onions, shallots and green onions for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add the oysters and sauté over high heat for 1 minute, or until the edges start to curl slightly. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more, Add the white wine, swirl the pan to deglaze, and allow the mixture to simmer for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream and simmer all ingredients for 4 to 6 minutes, until the cream is bubbling and the sauce begins to reduce. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the Parmesan cheese. Season with Creole seasoning.

Preheat the broiled. Evenly divide the oysters and sauce among 6 individual casserole dishes. The oysters should not be fully submerged beneath the sauce. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, drizzle with clarified butter, and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden. Serve at once.

Of all the seafoods, I find that oysters are the most disliked. Upon trying them, many fall in love with them. There is usually no middle ground when it comes to oysters. I’m glad I am on the pro-oyster side. If you are, these recipes are sure to please.

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