Why It Works
- The restrained heat of creamy Mexican rajas con crema pairs beautifully with the briny salinity of fresh oysters.
- Roasting poblano peppers under the broiler, rather than over a gas burner, saves time and makes for easy clean-up.
- Fresh cilantro and lime zest cut the richness of this spin on oysters Rockefeller.
After discovering that non-Antoine's oysters Rockefeller recipes are more often than not a bad cover of a hit song, I decided that I wanted to come up with a riff of my own that paid truly delicious homage to the original. Reading through poor imitation recipes that paired bivalves with wilted baby spinach, cream, and cheese didn't really work up my appetite, but the combination of deep green vegetables and dairy reminded me of a dish that does: Mexican rajas con crema.
Rajas are the dream vegetarian taco filling—strips of roasted poblano peppers simmered with onions, crema, and melty cheese. (Hey, if you want wilted baby spinach on your broiled oysters, there are plenty of recipes out there to keep you happy.) Before we get into it, let's be clear that there is nothing "authentic" about this recipe. If my version of oysters Rockefeller by rule can't be the genuine article, then this play on it certainly is not a how-to guide for making real-deal rajas. But it is tasty.
Broil and Foil
My ode to rajas begins by roasting a couple poblano peppers along with some whole scallions. Rather than tending to and turning them over an open flame, I opt for roasting the vegetables under the broiler, seeing as I'll be using it later for the oysters. I stem the poblanos, cut them in half lengthwise, and discard the seeds. Then I place the peppers skin-side up on a foil-lined baking sheet that's been lightly sprayed with vegetable cooking oil, along with some scallions. After lightly coating the poblanos' skins as well as the scallions with vegetable oil, I pop the sheet tray in the oven until the vegetables are nicely charred.
Charred scallions aren't usually used for making rajas, but they are a popular accompaniment at taquerias. The last time I visited Mexico City I invariably ended up ordering a side of cebollitas along with my tacos. Seeing as scallions played a role in the Rockefeller recipe, it seemed right to fit them in here, as well.
When they're done, I transfer the scallions to a cutting board, pile the poblano pieces in the center of the piece of foil, and gather the foil to form a pouch around the peppers. This gives the poblanos a chance to steam in the foil for a few minutes to release their flesh from the skins, making it easier to peel away and discard.
After that, I chop the peppers and scallions up.
Sweat and Smother
The next steps follow the same basic procedure used for the more classic Rockefeller topping: Sweat down sliced shallots and garlic in butter (I use less butter here as I'll add in crema later) before adding the chopped poblanos and scallions, and cook this mixture until the moisture from the vegetables has evaporated. I then add a tablespoon of smoky mezcal in place of the absinthe. Again, feel free to leave out the booze if you prefer. To finish, stir in a half cup of crema (crème fraîche or sour cream will work, too), a pinch of ground coriander, and lime zest.
Purée and Pipe
Buzz up the mixture in a food processor, then add roughly chopped cilantro and panko breadcrumbs and process the mixture to a paste. As with oysters Rockefeller, grab your properly stored and cleaned oysters, shuck them, and pipe the topping over them. Broil them in the same way, and then serve them up with lime wedges and some mezcal for sipping.
Might it be better than the original? You be the judge.
January 09, 2019
Vegetable cooking spray
2 medium poblano peppers (6 1/4 ounces; 175g), stemmed, halved lengthwise, and seeded
4 large scallions (3 1/2 ounces; 100g)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30g) unsalted butter
2 large shallots (4 ounces; 115g), thinly sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (4 ounces; 115g) Mexican crema or sour cream or crème fraîche
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1/8 teaspoon (1/2g) ground coriander
1 tablespoon (15ml) mezcal (optional)
1/2 bunch (about 1 1/2 cups; 30g) fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (1 ounce; 30g) panko bread crumbs
Rock (ice cream) salt (see note)
24 fresh oysters, scrubbed
Lime wedges, for serving
Adjust oven rack to 6 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler on high. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it lightly with vegetable cooking spray. Lightly coat skins of poblano peppers and scallions with vegetable oil; then place on prepared baking sheet with peppers facing skin-side up. Broil vegetables, checking them frequently, until they are soft and lightly charred, 5 to 8 minutes.
Set scallions aside on cutting board. Pile poblanos in middle of the sheet of aluminum foil; then gather foil around peppers to form a sealed pouch. Let peppers steam in the foil until their skins can be easily peeled away from the flesh. Using a paring knife, peel and discard skins. Cut poblanos and scallions into 1/2-inch pieces.
In a medium (3-quart) saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat until foaming. Add shallots, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add poblanos and scallions, and continue to cook until vegetables have released all of their liquid, and liquid has evaporated, another 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in crema, lime zest, and ground coriander. Continue to cook until mixture is well-combined and slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in mezcal (if using). Transfer mixture to food processor bowl.
Process vegetables, scraping down sides of food processor bowl as needed, into a coarse paste, about 30 seconds. Add cilantro and process until it is broken down and well-combined with the vegetable paste. Add panko bread crumbs, and pulse until they are fully incorporated. Season with salt, erring on the side of less salt since oysters are briny. Transfer mixture to disposable pastry bag or small mixing bowl, and set aside. If using a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic against surface of the paste to prevent skin from forming and herbs from oxidizing. If not serving immediately, mixture can be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 day; let sit at room temperature to soften before using.
Adjust oven rack to 6 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler on high. Line rimmed baking sheet with an even 1/2-inch layer of rock salt. Shuck oysters and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Pipe or spoon topping over oysters; then use an offset spatula or butter knife to smooth topping and fully cover each oyster.
Broil oysters, checking frequently, until topping begins to brown, and oysters are warmed through, 4 to 6 minutes. Lightly season oysters with cayenne. Serve immediately, passing lime wedges and plenty of mezcal at the table.
If you don't have rock salt, don't fret. A scrunched-up piece of aluminum foil can also hold the oysters in place on the baking sheet during the broiling step. For serving, mix a couple lightly beaten egg whites with kosher salt to form a wet paste that you can perch the finished oysters on.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Topping can be refrigerated overnight. Always keep plastic pressed directly against the surface of the topping when storing it to avoid forming a skin. Let topping sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before using it.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 4g||5%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||8%|
|Total Carbohydrate 5g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||2%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 12mg||58%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|