Oysters casino

Oyster Bar & RestaurantThe Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, 362pp.
by chef Sandy Ingber
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York, 1999
Cooking on page 132

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.

Oysters casino

Oysters casino


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)

Vegetable mixture IMG_9118 IMG_9124
Preheat oven to 400°F.

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. 🙂

Oysters casino baked

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.


About leggypeggy

Intrepid overland traveller, keen photographer, avid cook—known to jump out of airplanes and do other silly things. Do not act my age.
This entry was posted in Appetiser, Fish and seafood, Light meal, Seafood, Snack and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Oysters casino

  1. Gary Walker says:

    I ate there circa late 1990s when I spent a few days in NYC.
    It is one of my favorite restaurants I have ever dined. I didn’t know there were dozens of oyster varieties from which to choose. I thought Gulf Coast oysters were the only oysters anywhere being from the Gulf Coast of Texas.

    The oyster choices are endless. And all are delicious in their own unique way.

    The three lunch peeps in my party spent over $100 bucks on lunch! Bit it was totally worth it.

    • leggypeggy says:

      The cookbook has 14 oyster recipes and says the restaurant serves between 15 and 30 varieties of oyster every day. Guess I’m going to have to bring forward plans to visit New York City and start saving for lunch too. Do you remember what you ordered?

  2. G’day Peggy! I LOVE oysters too!
    Is just brekkie, but am salivating for some of these right now too! Thank you!
    Cheers! Joanne
    P.S. I had trouble posting a comment via Firefox today…yours = only site was having probs on but am sure it is a browser issue…thought you would like to know

  3. Gary Walker says:

    It was too many years ago so I don’t remember exactly what variety of oysters I had. But they were all delicious with varying assorted degrees of sea water brine tastes. They were all tasty.

    There are two separate dining rooms. One dining room is black-tie-fancy-jacket-reservations-only-required-to eat there… and the other side was a picnic-bench type situation for tourists.

    I was a tourist so had no reservations…. but they were they best raw oysters I have ever had. I want more.

  4. momaphet says:

    We enjoyed this dish but have to agree with you, I like my oysters best on the half shell with little or nothing added. This has a lot of flavors going on and they covered up the oyster a bit too much. For some i scrapped about half the topping off that was a better balance, a half recipe of the topping would be plenty for a dozen oysters.

    • leggypeggy says:

      Oh momaphet, I am so glad you made this recipe. You’ve reminded me that a long-time Zaar friend visited this restaurant a while back and sent some photos he took there. I’ll have to add them to this blog post. And yes, like you, we still prefer our oysters ‘undressed’. I like your suggestion to halve the topping. Cheers!

  5. Let’s see… 1. I love me some oysters. 2. I thought I was the only one who liked simple lemon and black pepper on my oysters, as my friends and family have long thought me insane for enjoying such. (I shall now disown them and not look back.) I also sometimes enjoy a horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce, but that’s my second choice. 3. I think Guastavino tile is pretty swell, and I am guilty of eating at certain establishments just because I want to admire the architecture, who cares what they feed me… 😉

    • leggypeggy says:

      I knew, absolutely knew, that you had good taste. When you visit, I will serve you oysters dressed with lemon and black pepper. And I’ll make a horseradish cocktail sauce for the accompanying prawns. No promises about redecorating the place with Guastavino tiles.

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