Prep 1 hr 15 mins
Cook 20 mins
Named after the founder of New Orleans, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. First served at Antoine’s, the famous New Orleans restaurant.
- 2 cups milk
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 1⁄2 cups minced green bell peppers
- 1⁄2 cup minced scallion
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1⁄3 cup dry white wine
- 1 (7 ounce) jar pimientos, drained and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3 ounces white American cheese, shredded
- 1⁄8 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
- 3 lbs rock salt or 3 lbs other coarse salt
- 24 oysters, in the shell
- lemon wedge
- To make the sauce: in a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat and bring almost to a boil, watching it carefully so that it doesn’t boil over.
- Remove pan from heat and reserve.
- Meanwhile, place another small pan over medium heat; add in 2 tablespoons butter.
- When the butter has melted and the foam begins to subside, sprinkle in the flour, stir the mixture to blend, and immediately turn the heat down to med-low.
- Continue stirring while the mixture bubbles for two minutes.
- Gradually whisk in the reserved warm milk, raise the heat to med-high, and bring to a boil, whisking continuously.
- Reduce to a bare simmer and add a pinch of nutmeg and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring regularly, for 15 minutes.
- The sauce should be very thick but still pourable.
- Whisk in a small quantity of milk if you think it needs thinning.
- Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl and set the sauce aside.
- Place plastic wrap directly on sauce to keep a skin from forming.
- Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.
- Add in green peppers, scallions, and garlic; cook gently for 5 minutes (do not let the vegetables brown).
- Add in the wine; increase the heat to med-high; let it reduce by half.
- Add in pimentos, cheese, breadcrumbs, cayenne, a few grindings of black pepper, a pinch of salt, and the reserved cream sauce, stirring to incorporate the mixture.
- Decrease the heat to medium-low and let the sauce gently simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When finished, it should be almost, but not quite, the consistency of mayonnaise.
- Taste the sauce for salt and adjust.
- Transfer sauce to a small bowl; set aside.
- Divide half the rock salt between 4 dinner plates, each large enough to hold 6 oysters; distribute the salt evenly on each plate; set plates aside.
- Divided the remaining salt between two roasting pans, each large enough to hold a dozen oysters in one layer; distribute the salt as you did for the plates.
- Open the top, flat side of each oyster; retain in each shell as much of the oyster liquor as possible.
- Discard the top shell and free each oyster from its muscle.
- Transfer each oyster in its bottom shell to the salt-lined roasting pans.
- Arrange the oven racks to accommodate both pans and preheat oven to 400°.
- Place 2 teaspoons of the sauce on top of each oyster, if they are medium-size (a little more if they are larger, a little less if they are smaller).
- The mixture should almost, but not quite, cover the meat of the oyster.
- Place the pans with the oysters in the oven and cook about 20 minutes, until there is a lively bubbling at the edges of the oysters.
- When the oysters are done, let them cool for 2 minutes, then, wearing rubber gloves or with the help of a large spoon, carefully transfer 6 oysters to each of the salt-lined dinner plates.
- Garnish each plate with a lemon wedge and serve immediately.
- **Alternative cooking method: preheat broiler; place one pan under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until the oysters are bubbling on top; repeat with second pan; proceed as directed.