On this date, in 1913, John D. Rockefeller gave $100,000,000.00 to establish the eponymous Rockefeller Foundation in New York City. Currently, the Foundation has an endowment of $4,100,000,000.00 and provides nearly $200,000,000.00 in grants (twice its initial endowment).
The Foundation was established to quell the fear of his descendants inheriting too much money, and “become intoxicated with power” and to whitewash the family name after the not so nice Ida Tarbell exposé, The History of Standard Oil.
Its mission has remained consistent: “To promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world.” It has given to causes such as support financial assistance for education “without distinction of sex, race, or creed” and funded the vaccination that eradicated yellow fever.
The first grant was given to the American Red Cross of $100,000.00 to purchase headquarters in Washington, DC, where it remains to this day (downtown, across from the White House, between the Corcoran Building and the DAR Headquarters).
In his day, John D. Rockefeller was the wealthiest man in the world, and the name Rockefeller connotes a certain degree of luxury. The name is referenced in Irving Berlin’s Puttin' on the Ritz! to Tupac’s I Wonder if Heaven Got a Ghetto?.
In 1889, another usage of his name entered the culinary lexicon: Oysters Rockefeller. First prepared by Chef Jules Alciatore at his father’s namesake restaurant Antoine’s in New Orleans. It consists of oysters on the half-shell topped with a green sauce and bread crumbs, then baked or broiled.
The recipe was never written down and according to Alton Brown “Alciatore took his recipe to the grave and any version since is merely an assumption.”
A 1986 laboratory analysis indicated its primary ingredients were parsley, pureed and strained celery, scallions or chives (indistinguishable in a food lab), olive oil, and capers.
Today, Oysters Rockefeller is mostly prepared with spinach as the main ingredient in the topping. Here is a variation that I enjoy, and can be easily prepared at home.
Oysters Rockefeller Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 6 servings or 36 appetizers
36 fresh (live) oysters on the half shell*
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons finely minced fresh spinach leaves
3 tablespoons finely minced onion
3 tablespoons finely minced parsley
5 tablespoons homemade bread crumbs
Tabasco Sauce to taste
1/2 teaspoon Herbsaint or Pernod**
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lemon wedges for garnish
* It is best to use small oyster for this recipe. The oysters themselves (not the shells) should be no more than 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Any variety of oysters will work; just make sure the oysters you choose are as fresh as possible, still alive, and tightly closed. Learn how to Shuck Oysters.
** Herbsaint and Pernod are an aniseed-flavored spirit, available where liquor is sold.
Using an oyster knife, pry open the oyster shells, then remove the oysters. Discard the top shells; scrub and dry the bottom shells. Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter; add spinach, onion, parsley, bread crumbs, Tabasco Sauce, Herbsaint, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Press the spinach mixture through a sieve or food mill; let cool. The mixture may be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use.
Preheat oven broiler. Line an ovenproof plate or platter with a layer of rock salt about 1-inch deep (moisten the salt very slightly). Set oysters in the rock salt, making sure they are level.
Place a little of the reserved oyster liquor on each oyster. Spoon an equal amount of the prepared spinach mixture over each oyster and spread to the rim of the shell.
Broil approximately 5 minutes or until the edges of the oysters have curled and the topping is bubbling. Watch carefully.
Garnish the plates or platter with the parsley sprigs and the lemon wedges. Serve immediately.