A deceptively simple dish, the oyster pan roast is equally at home on your kitchen counter or on a white linen table at a high-end restaurant. Though its origins are far to the northeast in New York City, many local chefs have taken this cozy, winter-time dish and made it their own. After all, there can't be too many ways to enjoy our fresh oysters from the Gulf.
It's true that the price of oysters in New Orleans has risen sharply, what with environmental issues like algae blooms and oil spills endangering our beds. Every time a hurricane comes through, most recently Ida, it's not only the oysters that suffer, it's the fishermen. Lost docks, ships, and homes have stalled many distribution channels, but through recovery efforts and good ol' Louisiana grit, slowly but surely, folks are seeing Gulf oysters slide back onto the plate.
At the newish neighbor-hood restaurant Gris Gris in the Lower Garden District, chef/owner Eric Cook has an appetizer that's dubbed a pie, but it sure looks like a pan roast to us! Plump, Gulf oysters are poached in their own liquor with heavy cream and served with a dollop of whipped potatoes, sauteed leeks, charred artichokes, and fresh tarragon. All one needs is a thick, crusty pisolette or a well-buttered hunk of New Orleans French bread to help spoon every drop to your mouth.
Just a couple of blocks off St. Charles Avenue on Napoleon, the century-old Pascale's Manale, known as the origin of the first New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp, also offers a pan roast, but admittedly, it comes off a bit more like a gratin. Their version includes a combination of local seafood—oysters, shrimp, and crab meat—milk, oyster liquor, and flour, mixed with sauteed shallots, parsley, and Worcestershire and topped with buttery breadcrumbs. It's a decadent and creamy shared plate that you'll probably want to keep for yourself.
Desperately missed after Hurricane Katrina, folks from near and far rejoiced when Gabrielle Restaurant, a local mainstay on Esplanade Avenue since 1992, finally reopened in the summer of 2019. The beloved spot, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Greg and Mary Sonnier, relaunched in the Treme neighborhood to much ado and is still, pandemic notwithstanding, holding strong. Diners frequently "ooh" and "aah" over signature dishes such as their dark, rich gumbo or slow-roasted duck in an orange-sherry sauce, but one could argue that the "Oysters Gabie" deserves equal admiration. The eponymous dish features Gulf oysters, artichokes, salty pancetta, green onions, and lemon topped with a Parmesan and breadcrumb crust.
Over on Magazine Street, Casamento's has been serving up gorgeous, Gulf oysters in their uniquely tiled-out digs since 1919! Easily one of the go-to spots for shucks, the Uptown spot, just a hop from Ms. Mae's, offers all kinds of seafood from its famed fried oyster "loaf" on buttered and toasted sliced bread to fried calamari and seafood gumbo. Though it's definitely more of soup than a pan roast, their oyster stew is basically whole milk, butter, onions, and parsley…oh, and lots of plump Gulf oysters, of course! At only $6.50 a cup, you can get half a loaf ($9.75) and make it an all-mollusk meal.
One of the most famous oyster pan roasts in the Greater New Orleans Area are the Oysters Mosca at, well, Mosca's, a Creole-Italian, family-owned spot that's been serving the Westbank for over 75 years. At this small, unassuming eatery, everything is served family-style, so be prepared to wait for huge portions of their famous chicken cacciatore and spaghetti with monster meatballs. The Oysters Mosca are no exception. A "small" portion contains at least a dozen Gulf oysters with lots of butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic, and oregano topped with a breadcrumb Parmesan crust. Though the pan roast at Mosca's will set you back almost $30, this is a dish, and an experience, that is meant to be shared with friends.