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Oysters Dunbar

Updated February 23, 2016
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Next to the Holy Grail, the most difficult thing in the world to find is a recipe from a restaurant that is no longer in business. I’m asked for them at the rate of about one a week. I think I have been asked for this one at least a hundred times.

Corinne Dunbar’s was a unique restaurant on St. Charles Avenue that operated more like a private home. It had a fixed menu each day, and you never knew what you’d be served. But you hoped it would be oysters Dunbar, the restaurant’s most famous dish. It was an oyster-and-artichoke casserole, and although I have never been able to obtain an authentic recipe from original sources, I’ve managed to piece together enough facts about it to come up with this one. At the very least, it seems close to what I remember from the one time I went to Dunbar’s in the early 1970s.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Methodbaking

CostSplurge

Moderate

Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date

Recipe Courseappetizer

Dietary Considerationappetizer

Equipmentbaking/gratin dish

Mealdinner

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturebuttery, creamy, rich, savory

Type of Dishcasserole

Ingredients

  • 2 dozen fresh, shucked oysters, with their liquor
  • 2 Tbsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 large artichokes
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) plus 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • ¼ tsp. Tabasco
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup bread crumbs

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the oysters, reserving the liquor. Put the oyster liquor into a 1-cup measuring cup and add enough water, if necessary, to make 1 cup liquid.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with the 2 tablespoons of salt and half the lemon juice. Cook the artichokes until tender, then remove from the water and set aside to cool.

Using a spoon, scrape the meat from the tough outer artichoke leaves into a bowl and discard the leaves. Pull off the tender inner leaves and reserve them whole. Remove the fuzzy “choke” from the artichoke bottom, chop the bottom into medium dice, and reserve.

In a skillet, melt the stick of butter until it bubbles. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, to form a loose blond roux. Add the green onion and cook until tender.

Add the reserved oyster liquor and mushrooms. Bring to a light boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid is very thick. Add the oysters and cook for 2 minutes more. Season to taste with Tabasco, salt, and pepper.

Scatter the reserved artichoke leaves and meat evenly in a baking dish. Pour the sauced oyster mixture over the artichokes and top with bread crumbs. Dot the top with the remaining butter and bake until the bread crumbs are browned and the rapid bubbling of the liquid contents has begun to slow, 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

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