No visit to New Orleans is complete without sampling the local cuisine. And no gastronomic adventure in the Big Easy is complete without a visit to at least one of Chef John Besh's restaurants. At his latest venture Borgne, he and Chef Brian Landry spin fresh, local ingredients into culinary gold, inspired by the French and Spanish creole traditions of coastal Louisiana, as well as their own fishing trips on Lake Borgne nearby. John and Brian were kind enough to treat us to a number of their signature dishes, from the Black Drum a la Plancha, to the Duck and Andouille Gumbo. And it was all, without exception, truly exceptional. But if there was one dish that stood out—and that, according to John and Brian, we could actually try making at home—it was the Oyster Spaghetti. They were kind enough to give us the recipe, as well as a few tips on how to shuck the 48 oysters required. So grab your oyster knife and invite over some friends, courtesy of the good folks at Borgne. And next time you're in New Orleans, do yourself a solid and swing by. There are a ton of other spectacular dishes on the menu, and your taste buds will definitely thank you for it.
How to shuck an oyster Louisiana-style:
Before you can begin your Oyster Spaghetti, you're going to need to shuck a whole mess of oysters. Here's the tried-and-true Louisiana method for getting it done. An oyster knife is required; a cold beer is optional, but highly recommended.
1. Scrub the outside of the oyster shell under cold running water in order to remove any dirt or mud.
2. Hold the oyster cup side down with the point (or hinge side) toward you using a glove or folded towel. Insert the oyster knife into the hinge, until the tip of the blade reaches a soft spot. Use your wrist to twist the knife and pop the oyster open.
3. Insert the blade into the shell. Separate the oyster from the top shell by scraping the blade across the top of the shell. Make sure not to pierce the oyster. Remove the top shell.
4. Insert the blade under the oyster, and again scrape along the bottom of the shell. The oyster will be free from the shell, but still in the "cup" of the bottom shell. Check for any shell or grit. Place each oyster once shucked into a bed of crushed ice. Serve immediately with lemons, horseradish, and cocktail sauce if you're eating them raw, or just set them aside for cooking.
Borgne's Oyster Spaghetti
To taste one of Borgne's signature dishes right in your own kitchen, gather your freshly-shucked oysters and follow these steps. This should serve 6, so invite over 5 of your best friends.
- 2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
- ½ Cup Diced Shallots
- ¼ Cup Finely Chopped Green Onions (White and Green Parts)
- 3 Tablespoons Chopped Garlic
- 1 Cup Vermouth (or White Wine)
- 1 ½ Cups Oyster Liquor
- 3 Cups Heavy Cream
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Thyme
- 48 Large Gulf Oysters Shucked
- 1 Pound Cooked Spaghetti
- ½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Salt and Freshly Ground White Pepper to Taste
- Optional garnishes (shaved parmesan leaves, grated bottarga)
Melt the salted butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. Sauté the shallots and green onions for 3 minutes or until translucent. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the garlic and and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the vermouth, swirl the pan to deglaze, and allow the mixture to simmer for 2 minutes. Add the oyster liquor, heavy cream, bay leaf, and fresh thyme and simmer all ingredients for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cream is bubbling and the sauce begins to reduce. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Add the oysters and cook until the edges begin to curl. Season with salt and white pepper. Add the cooked spaghetti, and cook until pasta is heated through. Divide the pasta and oysters equally into six bowls. Garnish with shaved parmesan and bottarga.
Enjoy. And make sure those 5 friends stick around to help with the dishes.