The story of this famous “American” dish was created the way most American dishes were, by a European. In this case, a Frenchmen by the name of Antoine Alciatore, whose namesake restaurant, Antoine’s, was very popular in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the 1800. Originally the dish was prepared with Snails. But when ill health befell Antoine, Jules Alciatore took over his famous restaurant and changed the dish to oysters, which reflected the local shellfish and eliminated the need to import Snails from France.
Jules was also one of the first people to cook oysters, in 1899 most all oysters were consumed raw. Legend has it that a customer proclaimed after having the dish, “This is as rich as Rockefeller!” So it is said that the name was given to the dish because the green in the topping represented the color of cash and the dish would be synonymous with being the richest in the world.
So in the same spirit of the man who changed the original dish to reflect the local bounty of his surroundings, we too, we have done a version that pays homage to the creator while at the same time, showcasing and giving voice to some of our local ingredients here in North Carolina.
- 2 dozen Bodie Island Oysters, shucked to half shell
- ½ pound Heritage Farms Cheshire Bacon, cut into slivers
- 1 pound Spinach, stems removed
- 2 peeled Shallots, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 5 Egg Yolks
- 1 cup Fish Hippie Chardonnay
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp Hot Sauce
- 1 cup Shredded Gruyere Cheese, or Parmesan
- 1 cup Bread Crumbs
- 6 ounces Melted Butter
- In a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the spinach, render the bacon until almost crisp. Add about ¾ of the diced shallots and garlic and cook with the bacon and rendered fat for about 30 seconds. Add spinach and lightly wilt the spinach with other ingredients. Pour this mixture into a mixing bowl and set aside.
- Pour the chardonnay into a saucepan with the remainder of the shallots and garlic and reduce over heat until reduced by half. Put the egg yolks into a mixing bowl and add chardonnay mixture and lemon juice. Place over a double boiler. Whisk the mixture constantly while cooking. Once the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, continue to stir occasionally to let excess heat escape.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the half shell oysters on a baking pan. Fold the spinach mixture into the egg mixture and add the grated cheese along with a little salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and add in the bread crumbs until the butter is soaked up. Top each of the oysters with a spoonful of the mixture. Then top with a little of the butter-bread crumb mixture. Bake until golden on top.
- Serve on a tray with lemon edges and hot sauce.
A note on ingredients:
We use North Carolina oysters but gulf and northeast oysters will substitute just fine.
We use Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork that is a world class pork producer here in North Carolina but you can substitute your favorite bacon in this dish
My neighbor in Cana, Virginia grows garlic and shallots on his farm and leaves bags of them for me on the porch every few weeks, again, you can substitute these from your farmers market or store
Our eggs come from Kai’s Hens in Pilot Mountain
For most of the year, our spinach comes from Fancy Gap, Virginia
Obviously, we are fond and proud of our own Fish Hippie Chardonnay, but any buttery or crisp white wine will do fine in this recipe. But do try to stay clear of wine with a lot of sweetness, as it will concentrate during the reduction process and overpower some of the other ingredients that should shine.