Fried oysters are some of my favorites because the oysters just burst through when you bite into the crunchy coating. I also love more “dressed up” oyster dishes like Oysters Bienville, Oysters Rockefeller and some little tartlets I make when I go to a pot luck. Here are my favorite recipes, both of them rich and delicious.

Oysters Bienville

Oysters Bienville were made famous at Arnaud’s and Antoine’s in New Orleans. It’s basically baked oysters with mushrooms, shrimp, oysters and sherry with variations. The recipe I use is very rich with cream, and plenty of butter. Just indulge.

1 dozen oysters, shucked and on the halfshell

6 T. unsalted butter

1/2 c. onion, finely chopped

4 green onions, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 T. all-purpose flour

2 c. ups raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped

1/2 c. white mushrooms, finely chopped

1/4 c. dry white wine

1/4 c. heavy cream

Oyster liquor, reserved

2 T. Italian parsley, minced

2 T. fresh lemon juice

Hot sauce to taste

Kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne, to taste

4 egg yolks, beaten

1 ½ c. rock salt

3 bay leaves, crushed

2 t. whole cloves

Shuck the oysters. Drain off the liquor into a small container and reserve. Leave the oysters on the half shell, refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

For the sauce:

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, saute until the onions turn slightly golden. Add the flour, stirring to incorporate then cook for a few minutes until it gets just a bit of light tan color.

Stir in the shrimp, mushrooms, and a little salt and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the shrimp start to turn pink. Add the white wine and the cream, cook for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, parsley and hot sauce. Season to taste with the salt, pepper, and cayenne. Remove from the heat.

When the sauce is slightly cooled, stir in the egg yolks, moving quickly to incorporate and keep them from curdling.

For the oysters:

Mix the rock salt with the bay leaves and cloves, then heat in the oven in a pie pan at the same time as the oysters.

Top each oyster with about 2 T. of the prepared sauce. Place them in a pan that has a thin layer of rock salt in the bottom.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes then turn on the broiler to slightly brown the tops, about 1 to 2 minutes. The oysters are finished when the sauce is heated through and the edges of the oysters start to curl. Place the herbed rock salt mixture on a large plate or platter. Arrange the Oysters Bienville around the plate.

Fried Oysters

Makes four servings

These turn out to be very crisp thanks to the panko. They’re also very easy to make. Just squeeze some lemon on them or make the mustard sauce I use (recipe below), but be sure to reserve the oyster liquor after shucking to use in the sauce. Other good sauces are a simple Kewpie mayo with a touch of wasabi, Thousand Island dressing or a remoulade sauce with the addition of Creole spices.

18-24 small to medium sized oysters, shucked

1/2 c. flour

1/2 t. cayenne

1 egg, beaten


Vegetable oil for frying

Lemon wedges

Set up three bowls, one with flour and cayenne, one with the egg, and one with panko. Add one inch of vegetable oil into a pot and pre-heat until the oil shimmers.

Rinse the oysters in salted water and use a slotted spoon to take them out. Drain on a paper towel. Lightly dust each oyster with flour. Dip each flour-coated oyster in the egg mixture, and then coat the oyster with panko.

Place the breaded oysters in the hot oil and fry until they start turning brown around the edges. Flip then continue frying until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel lined rack to drain. Serve with lemon wedges.

Mustard Sauce

1 c. oyster liquor or mix half oyster liquor and half clam broth

¼ c. finely chopped shallots

¼ c. white-wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar

2 t. finely minced garlic

1 c. dry white wine

¾ c. heavy cream

? c. Dijon-style mustard

6 T. cold butter

Combine the shallots, vinegar, garlic, oyster liquor and wine in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 45 minutes or more, until the liquid is reduced to about a third of a cup. Add the cream.

Bring to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, until reduced to one cup. Stir in the mustard and bring to a simmer. Add the butter in small pieces, stirring quickly with a wire whisk. Line a bowl with a sieve and strain the sauce by pressing with the back of a spoon to extract the flavor from the solids. You should get about a cup of sauce. Set the saucepan in a bowl of simmering water to keep it hot. Divide the sauce over four small plates and place four oysters on each plate.

— Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Exeter (and Austin, Texas). She can be reached by email at