Before Nathan and I got married I had mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. I thought of it as a holiday created to:
a) make money
b) create pressure to plan the perfect (i.e. expensive) date or buy the perfect gift
c) make single people feel bitter and lonely.
Obviously, none of these scenarios are positive so I just didn’t give Valentine’s Day too much attention. Now, however, I view Valentine’s Day as the perfect opportunity for a cozy and homemade candlelit dinner. Why pay a $150 restaurant tab when you can create a gourmet meal for $15 at home?
This Valentine’s Day, Nathan and I decided to make Oysters Rockefeller, a renowned baked oyster dish which was created at Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans in 1899. According to legend, the dish was created as a substitute for baked snails, which were hard to obtain from France. It was named in honor of John D. Rockefeller, at that time one of the world’s richest men, because the sauce is the color of greenbacks and intensely rich. It is said that no other American dish has received so much praise and attention as Oysters Rockefeller and the recipe remains one of the great culinary creations of all time.
We decided to pair our Oysters with a Spanish Brut sparkling wine because, let’s face it, real Champagne is expensive! We were pleased to discover that Mistinguett (only $12.59!) is an excellent substitute and it stood up well to the strong flavors of our oysters. It had just the right amount of bubbly and a hint of sweetness to balance the savory in the rest of the meal.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 tablespoons absinthe
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dash red pepper sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 dozen oysters, on the half shell
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Green onion, for garnish
Melt butter in a skillet. Sauté the garlic for 2 minutes to infuse the butter. Place the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl and add half the garlic butter, set aside. To the remaining garlic butter in the skillet, add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the spinach and cook for 3 minutes until the spinach wilts. De-glaze the pan with the absinthe. Season with salt and pepper and add a dash of red pepper sauce. Allow the mixture to cook down for a few minutes. Finish off the bread crumbs by mixing in olive oil, Parmesan and basil, season with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of the spinach mixture on each oyster followed by a spoonful of the bread crumb mixture. Sprinkle a baking pan amply with rock salt so that there is a ½ inch layer of salt. Arrange the oysters in the salt to steady them. Bake in a preheated 450˚ F oven for 10 minutes until golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges.