23 October 2009

3 Oyster Recipes: Awesome Louisiana Food From National Food Conference

The famous Chef Poppy Tooker from New Orleans

From Denny: Food writers from America's newspapers, magazines and web sites descended upon New Orleans this past week to experience the best of the city's culture and cuisine at the Association of Food Journalists annual conference, held at the New Orleans’ International House Hotel.

Lucky you and me that the people hosting it were from my own Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, as well as the New Orleans Times-Picayune so, of course, they decided to share some of the recipe goodies! (Too bad they didn't provide more photos.)

True to Louisiana they named their food themes for panel discussions in an amusing fashion: The New Orleans You Don’t Know, Beyond French, Spanish and African-American Hands in the Pot, The Sicilian Connection or Why Do All the Neighborhood Restaurants Serve Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Creoles Are Not a Fairy Folk: An Updated Definition, With Food.

At their discussions came some history of the Louisiana cuisine. German immigrants of the peasant farmer class began settling in Louisiana as early as the 1720's, just north of New Orleans. They soon intermarried with the French, eventually assimilating seamlessly into the Cajun and old Creole families.

Because of the negative overtones of the conflicts with Germany during World Wars One and Two, recognition of the culture and their cuisine faded. Only recently has there been renewed interest. Weird fact about New Orleans: There is not one German restaurant in the entire city!

The more recent Vietnamese immigrants have yet to influence Louisiana cooking in any noticable way. What we do see is the Vietnamese have lovingly embraced Cajun and Creole products like our fish and seafood: shrimp, crawfish, oysters, redfish and gar. Instead of incorporating Vietnamese products into Louisiana cooking, most Louisiana people prefer to dine on Vietamese food on its own terms in its pure state: noodle bowls, steamed vegetables, fish patties and stuffed bread rolls called banh mi.

Since Hurricane Katrina when neighborhood ethnic grocery stores were devastated, New Orleans Vietnamese families now have the goal of self-sufficiency. They operate neighborhood-based communal gardens and markets so they will no longer have to wait months for a store to reopen in order to feed their families.

Another immigrant group that came to Louisiana were the Italians. While most of America thinks of the Deep South associated with African-American slavery, there were white slaves as well. Even after slavery had officially been abolished in America it still existed in another form for immigrants as the indentured servant. Italian indentured servants came in the 1890's to work on the sugar plantations for two years as payment for their passage to America. Even after all that hardship they have managed to pass down through the generations their culture and recipes to the next generation.

Tuesday's post will pick up with more from this conference. Right now, let's get down to the yummy oyster recipes they gifted us!

Photo of another version of charbroiled oyster, the nacho style from cgkinia @ flickr

Drago’s Charbroiled Oysters

From: Tommy Cvitanovich of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant

Makes: 18

This is the perfect dish for those who want to enjoy oysters in their unadorned form, but can’t or won’t eat them raw. Once you start eating these charbroiled ones, you won’t be able to stop. Don’t attempt this without freshly shucked oysters and an outdoor grill.


1/2 lb. butter, softened
2 tbls. finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. black pepper
Pinch dried oregano
1-1/2 dozen large, freshly shucked oysters on the half shell
1/4 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, mixed
2 tsps. chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley


1. Mix butter with the garlic, pepper, and oregano.

2. Heat a gas or charcoal grill and put oysters on the half shell right over the hottest part. Spoon the seasoned butter over the oysters enough so that some of it will overflow into the fire and flame up a bit. The oysters are ready when they puff up and get curly on the sides, about 5 minutes.

3. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan and Romano and the parsley on top. Serve on the shells immediately with hot French bread.

Photo of another version of baked oysters by boo_licious @ flickr

Baked Oysters Rio Mar With Chorizo and Spinach

From: Adolfo Garcia of Rio Mar and La Boca restaurants

Serves: 12 as an appetizer


4 links Spanish chorizo (dried, not the uncooked Mexican chorizo), about 24 ozs., peeled and chopped
Olive oil as needed
1/2 medium chopped onion
3 tbls. chopped garlic
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese
2 cups cooked, well-drained spinach, about 1 lb. fresh
Salt and pepper, to taste
24 shucked oysters
Butter, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Process chorizo chunks in a food processor until finely ground, about 4 minutes. In a skillet over medium heat, brown chorizo with onions and garlic in a little olive oil, about 10 minutes. Cool mixture.

2. Combine bread crumbs and cheese in a small bowl. Chop cooked spinach, and
add all but 3 tablespoons of the cheese-bread crumb mixture.

3. Combine cooled chorizo mixture with the spinach mixture; season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Place 12 (8-ounce) ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Portion half of the chorizo-spinach mixture among the ramekins. Place two oysters in each then cover equally with remaining mixture. Garnish with reserved cheese-bread crumb mixture then dot with butter. Bake until brown, about 8 minutes.

Uncle Frank’s Oyster Dressing

From: Chef Chiqui Collier from the New Orleans Cooking Experience

Serves: 12-15

Chef Chiqui Collier says that this recipe, her family’s version, is probably the school’s most requested. Oyster dressing is a New Orleans tradition. This recipe freezes well and improves in flavor when made a couple of days ahead.


3 tbls. olive oil, plus more as needed
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion/scallion, sliced
3 tbls. minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 dozen large freshly shucked oysters and reserved liquor
2 to 3 sprigs thyme or pinch of dried thyme
Pinch salt
Pinch lemon-pepper
1/4 loaf stale po-boy French bread, cubed (about 2-1/2 cups)
Couple drops of Kitchen Bouquet


1. Fill a medium frying pan over medium heat with about 1/4-inch of olive oil. Add white onions; cook until softened and transparent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and green onions; cook 5 minutes more. Stir in parsley and cook an additional 2 minutes. Set onion mixture aside.

2. Place oysters and the liquor in a saucepan. Cook until the edges curl, about 5 minutes. Remove oysters with a slotted spoon, and coarsely chop; reserve cooking liquid. Add thyme, salt and lemon-pepper to the liquid; add bread to soak up the liquid.

3. Place the cooked onions, soaked bread and cooked, chopped oysters together in a large bowl. Toss well to mix. In the same skillet that the onions were sautéed in, add more olive oil. Over high heat, fry the dressing in two batches for about 5 minutes. Add a drop of Kitchen Bouquet to each batch.

4. Spread the cooked dressing in a large baking pan. The recipe can be made ahead to this point. Bake at 350 degrees until warmed through, about 40 minutes or longer if cold from the refrigerator. If desired, spoon some of the turkey drippings over the dressing before serving.

Baked Tomatoes are very tasty to serve as a side with an oyster dish.

Baked Tomatoes

From: New Orleans Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker

Makes: 4 to 6 servings as a main dish

This recipe is adapted from the Christian Women’s Exchange “Creole Cookery,” published in 1885 and republished as a facsimile in 2005. The dish was served at the Hermann-Grima House.


12 large tomatoes (2 to 2-1/2 lbs.)
1/2 loaf French bread, thinly sliced
2 tbls. unsalted, softened butter, plus more as needed
1 tbl. salt, or to taste
1 tbl. black pepper, or to taste
2/3 cup fine bread crumbs


1. Heat a saucepan of water to boiling. Plunge tomatoes into it to loosen peels. Remove peels.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take 6 to 8 of the most solid tomatoes and place them in a medium-size buttered baking dish. Butter the bread, using it to fill spaces in the dish.

3. Purée the remaining tomatoes in a food processor, adding the 2 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper. Pour the purée into the baking dish over the tomatoes. Cover evenly with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes.

*** For part two of the food conference - 5 Cajun, Creole Recipes: 2 Gumbos, Dirty Rice, Pickled Shrimp, Shrimp Stuffed Vegetable Pear

*** Thanks for visiting, everyone, have a great day!
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