Throughout centuries, many foods have been treasured for their qualities to entice love. Aphrodisiacs have inspired folklore, legend, numerous recipes and literature. Even the great Italian Dominican Friar, St. Thomas Aquinas, touted virtues of certain foods noting that aphrodisiacs produced a “vital spirit” and were also nutritious.
Some foods were considered aphrodisiacs because they resembled the human form, others inspired myths because of their novelty or scarcity. One of the most noted and easily accessible are oysters. Although they are a bit pricey, what better way to seduce your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day than with a bed of oysters and all the suggestiveness associated with them? Open a little split of Prosecco and you’ve got the perfect appetizer!
Oysters can be eaten raw or cooked. I enjoy raw oysters with a simple mignonette sauce or a dash of Tabasco but there are some classic recipes for cooked oysters, most famously Oysters Rockefeller which was developed in 1899 at Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans. Although the original recipe is a closely guarded secret, my variation is a delicious facsimile and is certain to make your sweetheart swoon!
OYSTERS with MIGNONETTE SAUCE
In a small bowl combine:
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
4 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Let the sauce sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill. Serve alongside freshly shucked oysters.
12 freshly shucked oysters on the half shell
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon finely minced sweet onion
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon finely minced chives (or shallots)
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh spinach leaves (or watercress)
2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon Pastis (or another anise-flavored liquor such as Pernod)
Tabasco sauce and lemon wedges, for serving.
Preheat your broiler.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter then sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Add the parsley, chives and spinach and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the spinach wilts.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs and Pastis. If you have any “oyster liquor” from the shucked oysters, you can add this to the mixture as well.
On a large baking sheet, crumble a large sheet of foil, leaving indentations in which to arrange the oysters so they do not tip. Carefully place the oysters on the foil
Spoon equal amounts of the spinach mixture into each oyster and top with a tiny piece of additional butter.
Broil for about 5 minutes until the topping is bubbling and the edges of the oysters have slightly curled. Serve with lemon wedges and a bottle of traditional red Tabasco sauce on the side.
Turn down the lights, put on some beautiful music and serve immediately.