This sumptuous dish is served in many New Orleans restaurants. I've heard that it was invented over 75 years ago at Arnaud's Restaurant, but Antoine's Restaurant also claims to have invented it in the 1940s. It's named for the Sieur de Bienville, Jean Baptiste le Moyne, founder of the City of New Orleans.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
- 3 dozen raw oysters on the half shell
- 6 pie pans, filled with rock salt
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup finely minced onion
- 1/2 cup finely minced bell pepper
- 1 cup finely minced green onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-1/2 cups minced raw shrimp
- 1 cup fresh mushrooms, minced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups Bechamel sauce (make it with half-and-half or cream instead of milk, for an extra-rich sauce)
- 2/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh French bread crumbs
- Salt, white pepper and Tabasco to taste
- Dash of Peychaud's bitters (Angostura bitters may be substituted)
Melt the butter, then sauté the onions, bell pepper, green onions, mushrooms and garlic until soft; add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute until barely pink. Deglaze with the white wine and lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Add the Bechamel sauce, cheese and bread crumbs, and reduce to a simmer. Add salt, white pepper and Tabasco to taste, dash of Peychaud's, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until very thick.
Arrange 6 raw oysters in each of the pans, firmly nestled in the rock salt. Cover each oyster with the sauce, and bake for 10 minutes, until the oysters and sauce are very hot and the top of the sauce is browned. Serve at once. The rock salt helps stabilize the oyster shells as this dish cooks. It's there for support, not seasoning; make sure you don't get any on your oysters, or they'll be too salty.
YIELD: 6 servings of 6 oysters each.
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)