For many years after I first discovered the joys of slurping a fresh, raw, gulf coast oyster straight from the half shell, the idea of bastardizing one of nature’s perfect foods with anything more than a squeeze of lemon and the occasional dab of cocktail sauce was blasphemous to me. Unthinkable. Why would I order baked oysters when I could eat them the way God intended?
Of course, eventually my curiosity got the best of me.
Usually the first baked oyster dish that most people have is the classic Oysters Rockefeller. After making them a few times at home, and trying out a few variations, I have honed the recipe down into the incarnation that I, and my friends, seem to like the most.
This version is much heavier on the bacon and much lighter on the spinach.
Typically, I make this recipe using 24 oysters, but Fresh Market only had 15 left on this particular day, and 3 of the little buggers never made it to the oven (see my previous comments on my love of raw oysters).
Recipe: Bacon Baked Oysters
12 oysters on the half shell
5 tablespoons of room temperature butter
1 tablespoon finely minced/smashed garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
3 slices of bacon, chopped into thin strips
1/2 cup of baby spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
Enough shredded parmesan to top each oyster (sorry, no clue on the measurement here…just eyeball it).
Salt and black pepper (to taste)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Start off with a dozen shucked oysters, with the liquor retained. My personal preference is for Gulf Coast oysters, but use whatever variation you like.
Next, fire up a sauté pan to medium high heat and throw in the bacon. Cook until the bacon starts to brown slightly and the fat renders into the pan.
Add the onion, celery, oregano, and 3/4 of breadcrumbs to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the spinach and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach is completely cooked down. Remove from heat.
While the mixture is cooling, mix together the soft butter and garlic and add a dollop of the garlic butter to the top of each oyster. I don’t care if you are worried about your saddlebags – don’t skip this step! It makes a big difference.
Then, add a spoonful of the bacon/onion/spinach mixture to the top of each oyster. Sprinkle each oyster with the remaining breadcrumbs and top each with some of the shredded parmesan.
Serve and enjoy.
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