How to make New Orleans-style broiled oysters
When Hunter Evans, 33, returned to his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, he saw a lot of potential in the growing Southern city. A home-spun energy pervaded the capital city as younger makers sought to make their mark, he said.
“It just feels like there’s a lot of space and opportunity,” he said.
He seized on that spirit and on Jan. 31, 2020, opened Elvie’s, a locally focused restaurant built into a once-empty home. It’s named after his grandmother Elvaretta May Good, who was also a champion of local in her own city.
Evans spent many of his formative years making the three-hour trip to New Orleans with his family to visit his grandmother, known by friends as Elvie.
There, he immersed himself in Big Easy culinary culture, eating Gulf seafood and soaking in the city's celebratory spirit. Those trips gave him early exposure to good food and opened his eyes to the joy of sharing it with friends and family.
“And that's the ethos of Elvie’s,” he said. “It’s in an old house, it feels cozy, and we want people to feel seen and known when they walk through the door. My vehicle to do that is through the restaurant.”
He summons family history through dishes like the Oysters Elvaretta. Evans hoped the oysters, stuffed with a comforting garlicky artichoke dip and broiled, could become an updated version of the classic Oysters Rockefeller served in iconic New Orleans haunts such as Galatoire’s.
They’re a nod to his grandmother’s love for artichokes, which she would cook in all manner of ways, including stuffing them with seasoned breadcrumbs and pulling each finished leaf to dip in butter.
The oysters, when stuffed and properly roasted, become a buttery blend of artichokes and rich, creamy cheese.
“I love serving it with French bread,” he said. “You get it down in the shell and get that butter and extra liqueur.”
How to make oysters at home
Evans’ Oysters Elvaretta are perfect for backyard oyster roasts.
“When the weather’s nice, you can eat them right off the grill,” Evans said. “They make great party food.”
Evans’ recipe (below) makes a couple of quarts of artichoke dip. That’s more than you’ll need for even a couple dozen oysters, but the dip is freezable and excellent for many uses. You can serve it baked, with crackers and French bread on the side. You can spoon it into an omelet, or over fish.
But at the restaurant, its primary use is broiled with the oysters. Evans explained how to do it at home.
“Make the mix, shuck your oysters and line them up on a sheet tray or serving tray, and top them off (with the dip),” he said. “Then get your grill on pretty high heat.”
Lower temperatures will overcook the oysters before the dip gets hot and golden brown. A hotter grill will render the cheese nice and bubbly.
You’ll want to roast your stuffed oysters directly on the hot grill grates.
“Then you can close the lid of your grill for maybe two minutes and, when the edge starts to bubble, the oyster may curl a little on the edges, and then she's ready to go,” Evans said.
Oysters can be served on a tray or platter lined with rock salt to keep them from tipping. A squeeze of lemon brightens them up. Serve some bread on the side to soak up the remaining good stuff left in the shell.
In the summer, they’re good with a nice white wine or rose.
“But if it's Mardi Gras season, I’m drinking beer from New Orleans, like Abita strawberry or one of the other seasonal beers everyone looks forward to,” Evans said.
After that, you don’t need much more than good music.
Should the weather be awful, or if you don’t have a grill, Evan said the oysters can be cooked under a broiler until the topping is golden brown and the oysters are just hot and bubbly.
Creamy artichoke, bacon and parmesan dip
Courtesy of Chef Hunter Evans
At Elvie’s, chef Evans adds this mix to top off oysters before charbroiling them for his signature Oysters Elvaretta dish, named after his grandmother and the restaurant’s namesake.
At home, this can be used as a warm dip or as a stuffing for fish like flounder or salmon.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- half bunch green onions, thinly chopped
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and minced
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 3 14-ounce cans of artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 2 cups parmesan cheese
- ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 dashes of hot sauce
- ½ cup bacon
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- ½ cup cream cheese
Cook bacon in a skillet. When crispy, add butter, onions and garlic to pan and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add white wine and reduce until evaporated.
Add chopped artichoke hearts and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add cream and reduce until thickened.
Add cheese, bacon, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Stir, adding in salt, pepper and small pinch of cayenne pepper. Warm through.
Take off the heat, add lemon juice.