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Oyster Gratin with Horseradish and Parmesan

Louisiana Super Chef, and Iron Chef Alum, John Besh, published his first cookbook last year, My New Orleans (Andrews McMeel, publisher).  I, of course, nabbed it as soon as it was available.  I had become a fan of Besh when he was competing to become the next Iron Chef (he was beaten out in the finals by Chef Michael Symon).  His cuisine appealed to me because of his deft mixture of Louisiana and French flavors.

This week Chef Besh’s My New Orleans was awarded an IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Award.  While I had read Chef Besh’s cookbook, I hadn’t tried any of the recipes, so in honor of his award, tonight I made the Oyster Gratin with Horseradish and Parmesan. The dish was fairly simple to make, and I almost followed the recipe. 

For some reason some cooks are intimidated by a roux.  The secret is stirring – you just have to keep that whisk in motion – figure eights, just like a skater!  It will smooth out.  And I don’t think I’ve ever used a clove for any recipe that didn’t involve decking the halls.  Cloves are the aromatic dried buds of a clove tree, a member of the evergreen family that is indigenous to Indonesia. Cloves are used as a spice in cuisines worldwide.  That hint of clove was delicious but I’m thinking nutmeg would probably have done just as well. 

Confession time – I took the easy way out.  I didn’t press the sauce through a sieve.  Chef Besh was making an elegant sauce using his French training and I countrified it, leaving in the pieces of onion and garlic.  I did pull the bay leaf and the clove out of the sauce before pouring over the oysters.  (I’d hate to bite into a clove!)

Since the liquid from the oysters weren’t needed in the gratin, I saved it and put it in the freezer – it will be a flavorful add to a soup or sauce later.

I was surprised that the topping called for olive oil rather than butter, but it worked well with the Panko, Parmesan, and red pepper.   Coming out of the oven, it added a delicious crunchiness to the creamy sauce and juicy oysters.

I started my meal with a simple mixed green salad dressed with a light vinaigrette, and sipped a 2008 Bordeaux Blanc, Chateau Bonnet, which was perfect with both the salad and the oysters.

Congratulations Chef Besh, and thank you for sharing your New Orleans with us!

Oyster Gratin with Horseradish and Parmesan


4 tablespoons butter

¼ cup flour

½ medium onion, sliced (I minced)

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 cups milk (I used reduced fat milk)

1 clove

1 bayleaf

½ cup prepared horseradish


3 dozen shucked oysters, drained and patted dry

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup dry bread crumbs (I used Panko)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat.  Stir in the flour and cook the roux, stirring frequently, until it turns blond; this should take no longer that 5 minutes.   Add the onions and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue cooking, stirring often, until the onions are soft/

Slowly add milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, the immediately reduce heat to low.  Add clove and bayleaf; let sauce simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the horseradish.  Season with salt, then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl.  Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the sauce to prevent a skin from  forming.  Set sauce aside and let it cool.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Season the oysters with salt and pepper and lay them in the bottom of a baking dish in a single layer; then pour the sauce on top, evenly over the oysters.

In another bowl, mix the bread crumbs, olive oil, Parmesan, and pepper flakes.  Sprinkle over the oysters and sauce in the casserole.  Bake about 15 minutes or until the topping becomes golden brown.


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