I love oysters, so was thrilled to find this cookbook many years ago in a second-hand shop in Canberra. Isn’t the cover gorgeous—all gold and colour? How could I not pick it up and bring it home? And, no, I didn’t shoplift it, but I can’t remember how much I paid for it.
Sadly I’ve never eaten at New York City’s Oyster Bar & Restaurant, but I’m glad it’s still around so I might get there eventually. It first opened in 1913—101 years ago—but was on very hard-times and closed by the early 1970s.
In 1974, the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority asked restaurant guru, Jerome Brody, to take it over. He had been credited with transforming New York’s restaurant scene, and the Oyster Bar is one of four establishments that thrived under his direction.
Brody, who died in 2001, sold the Oyster Bar to the employees in 1999. According to the restaurant’s website, the venue is closed until March, while its guastavino-tiled ceiling is being restored. That’s the ceiling featured on the book cover. How grand!
Today I’m cooking on page 132. Page 32 has a recipe for white wine cream sauce, but how could I cook a sauce when the word oyster is slapped on the cover? So off to the oysters on page 132.
3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbsp white wine
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
generous sprinkling of ground black pepper
generous dash of Worcestershire sauce
3 or 4 drops Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp seafood seasoning
1 dozen oysters, shucked and drained (reserve oyster liquor and set aside for another use)
Fry bacon in a large, heavy skillet until almost crisp.
Add onion, red and green pepper, celery, all seasonings and white wine. Sauté until vegetables are just tender.
Arrange oysters in a single layer in a large shallow baking dish or casserole lined with foil.
Spread the bacon and vegetable mixture carefully over the top of the oysters.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges of the oysters begin to curl.
Serve on hot toast points or a handful of oyster crackers.
How it played out
Poor John is the family oyster shucker, so I put him to work on 2-dozen oysters.
This was going to be the intro to a celebratory seafood feast for three people—scallops and prawns were coming next. But our Clyde River oysters are on the small side, so I used the specified amounts of bacon and veg, but spread them across 24 oysters.
I felt really lucky to have a stalk of homegrown celery—thanks to gardeners, Lyn, Peter, Sue and David—and some lovely Boy Meets Girl white from Naked Wines (they support new winemakers). It was a celebration, so I respected the long-known advice that you should cook with wine you’d be happy to drink. And, I confess, we were more than happy to drink the rest of the bottle after dispensing 2 tablespoons for the recipe. 🙂
We didn’t, however, bother with toast points or oyster crackers. Gosh, I know what they are, but don’t think I’ve ever seen oyster crackers in Australia. Oh, and we can’t buy seafood seasoning here either. I couldn’t be bothered making a homemade batch, so I left it out.
The oysters were delicious, but we all agreed that we prefer them ‘undressed’ except for generous squeezes of lemon juice and grindings of black pepper. And that lovely wine on the side!
P.S. Be sure to check out my travel blog.