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12 fresh oysters, shucked, retaining as much liquor as possible, plus 12 half shells
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons minced shallots
3 tablespoons diced fennel bulb
1 cup lightly packed watercress, stems included
3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (or Panko)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Pernod or Sambuca (anise-flavored liquor)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper
Rock salt, as needed (optional)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the shallot and
fennel and sauté gently until they turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the
watercress and parsley and stir until it is completely wilted, about 1 minute.

Transfer mixture to a food processor (A mini-processor works best for this small
amount). Pulse until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Add the Pernod, 2 tablespoons of
the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and cayenne and pulse briefly to combine.

Combine the remaining bread crumbs with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Mix well
and set aside.

Add the rock salt to a depth of ½-inch to a flame-proof pan or pans just large enough
to hold the oyster shells (Ceramic is ideal but metal pie plates will work too.) If you don’
t have rock salt, kosher salt will also work or you can nestle the shells in a layer of
slightly crumpled foil. The idea is to keep the shells from tipping over.) Nestle the
oysters in their shells on top of the salt or foil. Divide the herb mixture evenly over the
oysters and top each with some of the bread crumbs.

Bake at 475ºF until the tops of the crumbs are golden and the oysters are hot all the
way through, about 5 minutes. Let them rest a few minutes before eating as they are
very hot!
Are you determined take advantage of the purported
aphrodisiac powers of oysters for Valentine’s Day? Oysters
Rockefeller, broiled oysters with an herb-crumb topping is a viable
alternative to those who do not enjoy raw, cold, juicy oysters
dappled with fresh lemon juice or fancy mignonette sauce. The
original recipe for Oysters Rockefeller, invented over a hundred
years ago by Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans, is still served
today and remains a closely guarded secret. Fortunately, countless
variations abound and my take on it, inspired by James Beard’s
version, has a healthful combination of fennel, watercress and
parsley.  The oysters retain their briny unctuousness while being
enhanced by the buttery mix of licorice-scented herbs and
watercress so eat the rest of it (stems and all) in a tossed salad to
get the full benefit of its significant amounts of iron, calcium, and
folic acid plus vitamins A and C. The oysters are pretty good for you
too; low in fat and a good source of iron and other minerals!
NOTE: If you don’t want to chuck the oysters yourself, your fish
monger will do it for you. Just be sure to have them keep as much
of the oyster’s liquor (juices) as possible and to give you the oyster
Oysters Rockefeller
Recipe by Jessica Bard       Serves 2 (makes 1 dozen)