Raw, steamed, grilled or Rockefeller, oysters have been a mainstay of the Coastal Bend’s food culture for centuries. Karankawa natives survived year-round on oysters and other shellfish. Fast forward a few hundred years and both bygone eateries like Ship Ahoy and current mainstays like Nolan’s feature fried oysters. Most regional fried oysters are dredged in a cornmeal batter, a notably Southern practice. Soaking oysters in buttermilk prior to dredging helps the batter adhere and diffuses bitter, metallic notes.
Fried Oysters Rockefeller is a classic oyster dish with an impressive presentation. The dish is based on a French preparation of escargot, and was created out of desperation during a snail shortage, but the haute couture hors d’oeuvres continue to pop up at parties and fundraisers over 100 years later. Combining the best of both worlds, this recipe swaps stale bread crumbs for a crispy fried oyster to top our spinach-filled oyster shells. Fried Oysters Rockefeller are a clever marriage of two local food darlings.
Yields 2 Dozen Oysters
PREP TIME 30 MINS | COOK TIME 45 MINS
- 1 pint shucked, raw oysters
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 quart peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
- 1 tbsp creole seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp dry white wine
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and strained
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese
- 24 empty oyster shells, scrubbed clean
For serving: rock salt, hot sauce and lemon wedges
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place oysters in a colander and rinse with water to remove any sand. Transfer strained oysters to a large bowl and cover with buttermilk. Let oysters rest in the buttermilk for 15 minutes while you continue on with the next steps.
Preheat oil to 370°F in a large, deep-sided skillet or deep fryer. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, creole seasoning and salt and whisk until combined. In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté shallots for 3 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure even cooking and prevent burning. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Stir white wine, salt, spinach, cream and romano cheese into the mixture. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Spread oyster shells, open side facing up, on 1-2 rimmed sheet pans. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the prepared spinach mixture into each oyster shell. Bake for 15 minutes.
Now, working with one oyster at a time, dredge the oysters in the prepared cornmeal mixture. Fry 5-7 oysters at a time, making sure to adjust the heat to maintain the oil temperature during the cooking process. Fry each batch of oysters for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer fried oysters to a clean cooling rack with a paper-towel-lined baking sheet under it to catch any oil drippings.
To serve, spread a bed of rock salt on your serving platter. Arrange the spinach-filled oyster shells on top of the rock salt bedding. Top each oyster shell with a fried oyster. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges and hot sauce.
Next, a recipe for Poblano Soup.