As a punishment for not renouncing his faith, St Valentine, a Roman, was put to death on February 14, 269AD. Legend has it that he left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, of whom he was fond, that simply read “from your Valentine”.
More than 200 years later Pope Gelasius proclaimed that this date should be remembered as St Valentine’s Day.
For a suitable dish, let’s evolve the classic Oyster Rockefeller, which originated at Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans around 1900. The chef patron, Jules Alciatore was one of the few who pioneered the cooking of oysters, and, after creating a dish using spinach and parsley as the main ingredients, presented it to a guest who, exclaimed: “These are as rich as Rockefeller”. Originally made with 18 ingredients in the sauce, here’s a simple version to enjoy on Tuesday.
Oysters Rockefeller (two generous portions)
12 oysters, 4oz/100g finely chopped onions, 4oz/100g chopped parsley, 6oz/150g fresh spinach, 6oz/150g butter, 5oz/125g fresh breadcrumbs, ½tsp Pernod, dash of Tabasco sauce, freshly ground salt/pepper to taste, 4 lemon wedges, rock salt (for standing the oysters in)
Open the oysters and remove them from the shells into a clean bowl with their juice. Clean and save the bottom shell (the deep one!)
Melt the butter over a gentle heat, add the onion, parsley and spinach and allow to “sweat” for about 10 minutes.
Add the Pernod, breadcrumbs and Tabasco and gently cook for 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and cool slightly and then put through a sieve or food processor to make a puree, adjust the seasoning with salt/pepper and set aside.
Lay the shells into a shallow dish lined with rock salt to hold them level and then place an oyster into each and spoon a little juice over.
Next spoon over some of the sauce puree and smoothe to the edges of the shell.
Place under a hot grill and cook until the sauce is bubbling.
Remove and serve them in the dish with lemon wedges, crusty bread and a chilled Sancerre.