Should I Pair my Rich Green-Sauced Oysters Rockefeller with Sauvignon Blanc or Pinnotheres Pisum?

Oysters Rockefeller Photo

Photo from

While we are on the topic of green, I want to recommend a uniquely Louisiana green dish: Oysters Rockefeller. This classic dish was developed in 1899 at Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans and has been a staple there (and around the world) ever since. The dish was given the name “Rockefeller” because its green resembled the color of greenbacks and the whole dish was so rich that the chef wanted a name that would signify the “richest in the world.”  At the time the Rockefellers filled the bill.  According to celebrity-chef Alton Brown, the true recipe is a secret that went to the creator’s grave but he speculates that “it includes a purée of a number of green vegetables that may include spinach to make it a distinctive green.” (FYI: most experts argue that spinach was not in the original recipe).  Below is a recipe from one of our go-to Louisiana cookbooks.  Also, I would guess that Alton Brown’s  “Baked Oysters Brownefeller” would be terrific.

Oyster Rockefeller Recipe 1

Recipe from The New Orleans Cookbook (1978) by Rima and Richard Collin

To be perfectly honest, I am less interested in discussing green-sauced oysters than in sharing something that I only recently (and quite unexpectedly) learned about oysters.  Bear in mind that we spent 27 years in Louisiana, which in itself qualifies us as oyster experts. My first serious oyster encounter occurred right after we moved to Baton Rouge when I tried to shuck a bunch of oysters for a party. Early into the shucking process I cleverly jammed the oyster knife into my hand resulting in a hurried trip to the emergency room. The ER doc took one look at my hand and before I could say anything asked if we enjoyed the oysters. Evidently, oyster-shucking injuries are routine in that part of the country.

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In addition to my shucking prowess, I spent several years doing sociological research on the Louisiana oyster industry. At that time Louisiana was the largest oyster producer in the U.S. Yet all of this experience with oysters did not prepare me for a recent encounter with an oyster right here in Glen Ellen, California.

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It all started a couple of weeks ago when Ann and I planned a special h’orderves treat and sprang for some in-the-shell bluepoint oysters from our local market. I threw them on the grill and when they began to open we dug in with some of Ann’s homemade sauce. (warning – if you are squeamish about imagining foreign squishy objects getting in your mouth you might skip the next part).   When I popped the very last oyster into my mouth I sensed that there was something in addition to the oyster in there. I spit out whatever it was into my napkin and took a good look.   It had tiny legs and claws. It looked like a teeny crab, as you can see by the photo I took.

pea crab oyster guy

Guess who came to dinner?

After some Googling, I discovered that indeed it was a crab, commonly called a pea or oyster crab. To be biologically correct, it was a Pinnotheres Pisum.  Just so you know,  Pinnotheres is Greek for “guard of Pinna” and pisum is Latin for a pea. Believe it or not, you can go on line and find folks who love them and are blogging about how best to cook them. Some even recommend eating them raw, if you can get around the wriggle factor. I am wondering how I would have reacted if I found this guy actually crawling on my plate. Not to be indelicate, but I think it would have scared the Pisum out of me.

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