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While John D. Rockefeller had nothing to do with this dish, it was named for him because he d was the richest man at the time, and the chef, Jules Alciatore—who took the original recipe to his grave—wanted to convey the richness of the sauce. It is likely that the American Countess of Grantham would make sure that Mrs. Patmore had a reliable recipe for this beloved—and fancy—American appetizer, making it possible for the Countess to have a taste of home when needed.
Ingredients (Yields 14–16 Servings):
- 48 fresh, unopened oysters, cleaned
- 2 cups pale ale beer
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 teaspoons sea salt, divided
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 tablespoon Pernod, divided 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 10 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
- 10 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 10 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
- ½ cup whole milk
- 4 tablespoons fine bread crumbs
- 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1. Place cleaned oysters in a large stockpot. Add beer, followed by enough water to cover oysters. Add garlic, 2 teaspoons sea salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring liquid to a boil, then drain oysters and set aside.
2. Once oysters have cooled, break off and discard the top shell. Splash each oyster with a little bit of Pernod, saving ½ tablespoon for future use. Arrange oysters evenly on a baking sheet.
3. Preheat oven to 400°F.
4. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic, and cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5–7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in spinach, followed by Monterey jack and fontina cheeses. Stirring frequently, cook until cheese melts. Add milk, followed by remaining 2 teaspoons sea salt and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper.
5. Spoon sauce over each oyster. Sprinkle oysters again with remaining Pernod. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bacon.
6. Bake oysters until bubbly and golden, about 12–15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
Times Gone By
While this recipe uses spinach, it’s well known that authentic Oysters Rockefeller obtains its green sauce without the use of spinach, but rather from a mixture of parsley, celery, and green onions or chives. However, nobody knows the exact ratio of ingredients, and this fact, along with the likelihood that the original Oysters Rockefeller contained absinthe (which this recipe replaces with Pernod), a liquor that is illegal in several areas, makes duplicating real Oysters Rockefeller nearly impossible. This recipe, however, is an extremely satisfying solution.
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Excerpted from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Baines. Copyright © 2019 by author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.