Oysters Bienville


Reprinted with permission from An Irresistible History of Southern Food by Rick McDaniel (The History Press, 2011)

“Count” Arnaud Cazenave, founder of Arnaud’s Restaurant, invented this New Orleans specialty in 1920. This is my version of this classic dish.

 Yield: 8 servings
 2  dozen oysters on the half shell, drained
2/3 cup diced mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/2 pound boiled shrimp, finely diced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
rock salt

Shuck oysters and reserve meat; save shells. Thoroughly wash oyster shells and pat dry.
In a 4-quart saucepan, sauté mushrooms in oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Melt butter and sauté garlic, bell pepper and shallots until tender. Add shrimp, then sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly. Add mushrooms. Continue stirring and add brandy to deglaze pan. Stir in cream and cook until smooth.
Add cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and cayenne. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk and whisk to blend. Remove from heat, allow to cool and then refrigerate for about 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat broiler. In a 4-quart saucepan, simmer oysters in water just until edges curl. Remove from heat. Spread rock salt in a layer about 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep over the bottom of 4 glass or metal pie pans. Return oysters to cleaned shells and place 6 shells in each pan of rock salt. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon sauce over each oyster. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, about 5 to 7 minutes.