“Florentine” implies spinach, and indeed this dish combines tender oysters with that wonderful green. Cooked in a savory cream sauce and served over pasta, oysters have never had it so good! We used baby spinach, which has leaves only 1 to 3 inches long and very small stems, but if it’s unavailable use regular spinach and simply remove all the stems and tear the leaves into 1-inch pieces.
Makes 4 servings
¾ teaspoon dried basil
8 ounces uncooked pasta (penne or your favorite pasta)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pint oysters in their liquor
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped roasted onion
2 tablespoons chopped roasted garlic
10 ounces baby spinach leaves
2 cups heavy cream
How To Prepare
In a large pot over high heat, bring 1 gallon of water to a rolling boil. Add the salt and olive oil, then add the pasta. Stir the pasta briefly to keep it from sticking together, then cook to the al dente stage. Drain the pasta in a colander, then run cold water over it until it is cool to the touch. Drain off all excess water, then sprinkle the pasta with 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mix and toss until evenly coated. Set aside.
Drain the liquid from the oysters and reserve the oysters and the liquid.
In a 5-quart pot, melt the butter over high heat. When the butter melts and begins to sizzle, add the onions, garlic, and the remaining seasoning mix. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are brown and have a glazed appearance, about 4 to 5 minutes. All the flavors hit at once with a strong taste of salt. Note the rich undertone of roasted flavors from the garlic and onion. Stir in ½ cup of reserved oyster liquor, then add the spinach. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach cooks down and the liquid bubbles like little volcanoes, about 4 minutes. Note the sweetness of the onion and garlic, and the developing brown color and flavor from the caramelizing process. Also present is a faint taste of oyster from the cooking liquid.
Add the cream and bring to a boil. If the cream thins out as it heats, continue cooking until it thickens again before proceeding. If it remains thick, go immediately to the next step. Lower the heat to medium and add the oysters. Watch the oysters carefully, which is a bit hard to do, as they are somewhat hidden in the sauce. Pick one up with a slotted spoon to check the progress. When they begin to curl and show a series of pleated folds on their sides, about 2 minutes, they are cooked. Remove from the heat and serve over the pasta.
Copyright© 2000 by Paul Prudhomme