For many years, I didn’t care much for oysters. Or so I thought. It’s not like I gave them much of a chance. I would wrinkle my nose at the sight of their quivering bodies on the half shell in preference for what were, to me, less offensive shellfish—scallops, crabs, lobsters, mussels. But like so many food aversions, it turns out it was all in my head, as I happily discovered on a recent trip to New Orleans.
My gateway oyster dish was the absinthe oyster dome at the iconic Commander’s Palace restaurant. Topped with puff pastry—the “dome” —it’s an incredibly rich and balanced dish of bacon, cream, artichokes, just a whiff of absinthe, and a whole mess of plump and juicy Gulf oysters. After tasting that, I was fully on board Team Oyster. Now I’ll eat them broiled, grilled, fried or raw.
My Herbsaint Oyster Stew is inspired by that incredible dish I had at Commander’s Palace. Instead of absinthe, however, I use the more mellow, anise-flavored liquor Herbsaint, and to lighten things up a bit I substitute milk for heavy cream, which I thicken with a roux. The broiled garlicky oysters are a direct re-creation—as far as my memory serves—of another dish I had in New Orleans: the famous grilled oysters at Drago’s. Here the oysters are smothered in garlic butter and cheese and grilled over an open flame. The fire shoots up and licks the shells as the butter drips down into the heat; in my less flammable version the oysters are broiled in the oven.
The spicy oyster and Andouille sausage spaghetti is a fun departure from spaghetti and meatballs, and you’ll find that the leftover Creole seasoning is great on just about everything. Finally, the BOLT sandwich—bacon, oyster, lettuce and tomato— was inspired by a fried oyster and pork belly sandwich my husband had at John Besh’s Borgne restaurant. It does something I never thought possible: improve on the BLT.