The Washington Post

Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller 3.000

Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post

Mar 4, 2019

Harley Peet hails from the Midwest, but having moved where "oyster beds are practically in my back yard," he says, the chef knew he would serve this classic on his menu at Bas Rouge in Easton, Md. Peet has gotten the sauce consistency just right, and uses the slightly sweeter anise flavor of sambuca to play against the salinity of Chesapeake Bay oysters.

He serves them only in "R" months, staying true to the classic approach, he says.

Make Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated a day or two in advance. It may solidify once it’s chilled, but it will soften soon after it has returned to room temperature.

3 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 3-6 servings; makes 12 to 18 oysters

  • 6 ounces slab or thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sambuca liqueur (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) heavy cream
  • Handful fresh baby spinach, blanched and squeezed dry (see NOTE)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, or as needed, plus optional wedges for serving
  • 12 to 18 fresh oysters in the shell, preferably from the Chesapeake Bay


Place the bacon pieces in a heavy saucepan, then place over medium-low heat. Cook until brown and crisped, gradually increasing the temperature as needed; this will help prevent sticking. Transfer the bacon to a plate. Discard half the rendered fat in the pan.

Stir in the shallot and garlic, cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, watching closely so the shallot becomes translucent but doesn’t pick up too much color. Pour in the sambuca, which will steam and sizzle. Use a spatula to quickly dislodge any browned bits in the pan.

Add the butter and flour, then remove from the heat and whisk until well incorporated, to form a paste (roux). Pour in the heavy cream.

Place the pan over medium heat; whisk for a few minutes to form a thickened sauce. Once it is smooth, stir in the crisped bacon pieces, the blanched spinach and the cheese. Taste, and season lightly with salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed. To avoid over-seasoning, though, be sure to taste one of your unadorned fresh oysters to gauge their level of salinity.

When you’re ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Shuck the oysters, draining some of the liquor off each and making sure to detach the connecting muscle so the oyster will release from its shell (keep the oysters on their half shells).

Arrange the oysters on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each one with a generous amount of the sauce. Bake (upper rack) for 10 to 12 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown in spots.

Serve warm, with lemon wedges, if desired.

NOTE: Blanch the spinach by dropping it into a pot of boiling water over high heat; cook for a minute or just until wilted and a richer shade of green, then immediately drain and rinse under cool water until cooled. Squeeze until dry.

Recipe Source

Adapted from a recipe by Harley Peet, executive chef at Bas Rouge in Easton, Md.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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Nutritional Facts

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

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