Oysters Bienville is a famous New Orleans dish named for the “Father of Louisiana,” Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. It’s made by baking oysters in their shell in a creamy white wine sauce. This oysters Bienville recipe is easy to make with fresh oysters in their shell or shucked oysters baked in a casserole dish or individual gratin dishes.
I grew up near the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, so oysters are part of my DNA. Whenever I can get a bag (or bushel) of oysters, my head spins.
There are so many ways to enjoy these shellfish. From baked oysters Rockefeller to raw oysters on-the-half shell, deep-fried oysters with remoulade, pan-fried oreganata oysters, and oyster stew to oyster dressing, the uses for this briny shellfish are limitless.
Today, I’m sharing a classic Louisiana recipe for Oysters Bienville, a rich and delicious oyster appetizer that looks and tastes like haute cuisine but is simple to make.
Chef Auguste Michel created the original oyster Bienville recipe at Antoine’s. Still, the dish gained its notoriety at Arnaud’s restaurant after Arnaud Cazenave tasted Michel’s version and started serving it at his restaurant (located in the heart of the French Quarter).
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Why you’ll love it:
- It’s a sophisticated dish perfect for a nice dinner party or a memorable holiday.
- Oysters Bienville is quick and easy to make, taking about 30 minutes.
- You can make the Bienville sauce ahead of time.
- Use fresh oysters in their shell, or buy a pint of shucked raw oysters.
- The recipe can be doubled or tripled.
Ingredients for Oysters Bienville:
- Raw oysters (preferably in their shells, but can also be made with shucked oysters in their liqueur).
- Red Bell Pepper
- 3-4 large Garlic Cloves
- Unsalted Butter
- All Purpose Flour
- Chardonnay (or other dry white wine).
- Whipping Cream
- Fresh Breadcrumbs
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
Some equipment will make shucking oysters easier (and less dangerous) for you. I’ve included my affiliate links below.
Special equipment you might need:
- Oyster shucking gloves – These gloves are Level 5 cut-resistant gloves, so you don’t gouge yourself prying open the shellfish.
- An oyster shucker.
- Stiff brush (for cleaning the oysters)
I encourage you to get them if you don’t have them already.
How to shuck raw oysters:
- First, clean the shellfish, running them under fresh water and scrubbing away the dirt, mud and debris with a stiff brush.
- Once cleaned, put on the oyster shucking gloves (trust me, you want these gloves to protect your hand from slips with the sharp knife).
- Rest the oyster, cup side down on an old dishtowel and hold it with your non-dominant hand.
- Insert the tip of the oyster knife into the hinge of the oyster, forcing it open and twisting to break the hinge.
- The knife will likely have bits of shell stuck to it after forcing open the hinge. Wipe the blade clean on the dish towel.
- Slide the oyster shucker along the top of the shell to disconnect the meat from the adductor muscle. Discard the top shell.
- Run the shucker under the oyster to disconnect it from the muscle attaching to the shell.
- Pour the liqueur from the oyster shells through a fine sieve over a bowl.
- Arrange the shellfish on a rimmed sheet pan so they stand upright without tipping.
The Bienville sauce is what makes this baked oyster recipe so unique. It’s rich, but the wine cuts through the creamy, buttery sauce, giving it a tangy, light finish.
How to make the bienville sauce:
- Heat a pan over medium heat and add the butter to melt.
- Once melted, add the vegetables and sweat them in the butter until they’re tender and translucent. (Do not brown the veg).
- Add the flour and cook, constantly stirring for one minute until no dry bits are left, and the flour has formed a paste (a.k.a. roux).
- Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring constantly, and cook for one minute.
- Add the heavy cream and reserved oyster liqueur and cook until the Bienville sauce is thick and creamy.
- Fold in 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs and two tablespoons of grated parmesan. (Combine the remaining crumbs and cheese in a separate bowl).
Assembling the oysters to bake:
- Top the shucked oysters on the half shell with sauce Bienville and a sprinkle of the reserved parmesan-breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 12 minutes.
- Turn the broiler to high and cook the oysters in Bienville for an additional 2-3 minutes until golden brown and crusty.
Scrunch sheets of aluminum foil to get them wrinkly, then open them up slightly and line the bottom of a rimmed sheet pan with the foil. Rest the oysters in the foil, folding and molding the foil around the shells to make them stand upright.
How to assemble with pre-shucked oysters:
Use 1 pint of raw oysters in their liqueur.
- Place a fine sieve over a bowl and pour the shellfish into the sieve to drain the oyster liquor to use in the sauce.
- Arrange the oysters in a shallow casserole dish or individual gratin dishes (about 3-4 oysters per person).
- Top with the Bienville sauce and parmesan breadcrumbs. Bake for 15 minutes until cooked through, and broil for 2-3 minutes more until they’re golden.
- You can use vermouth or sherry instead of Chardonnay, but their flavor tends to be more concentrated because they are fortified wines. Scale back to 3 tablespoons.
- If you don’t like oysters, you can make the Bienville sauce to go with shrimp. Arrange peeled and deveined medium to large raw shrimp in a casserole or gratin dish and top with the sauce to bake.
- After cooking, double down on the richness by stirring a large egg yolk into the Bienville sauce. Add the yolk once you’ve removed the sauce from the heat. Otherwise, the yolk will scramble.
- You can add minced mushrooms to the vegetables, adding a deeper umami flavor to the sauce Bienville.
- For a bit of spice, add a rounded ? teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the vegetables as they saute or for more Louisiana flair, add one teaspoon of Cajun or Creole seasoning.
- Crisp three slices of bacon in the skillet before cooking the vegetables, then use the bacon fat to sweat the veg and give the oyster dish a smoky flavor. (Crumble the bacon over the oysters when they come out of the oven.
- I used chives to garnish the baked oyster recipe, but sliced green onion or parsley would also work well.
I like to serve oysters Bienville on a bed of rock salt. It’s a beautiful presentation, and the coarse salt creates a stable surface to hold the oysters upright, so you don’t lose any of the sauce.
For extra flair, serve with lemon wedges for squeezing to help cut through the richness of the oyster appetizer.
This is delicious with a warm baguette or French roll to soak up any extra sauce.
In New Orleans by Chef Auguste Michele of Antoines. Made famous by Chef Arnaud Cazenave of Arnaud’s in the French Quarter.
Though both are decadent baked oyster appetizers, Bienville has a creamy wine sauce, whereas oysters Rockefeller uses Pernod and fresh herbs or spinach.
Yes. Add the shucked and drained oysters to a shallow casserole dish and top with the sauce and breadcrumbs to bake. Spoon up the shellfish and sauce onto a plate to serve with bread.
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- 1 pair oyster shucking gloves
- 1 oyster shucking knife
- 1 old dish towel for gripping the oyster and wiping the residue and shell on with the oyster knife.
- 1 dozen raw oysters in their shell, reserve liqueur for the sauce) (or 1 pint of raw shucked oysters in their liqueur)
- 2 tablespoons minced celery
- 3 tablespoons minced onion
- 2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 minced scallions
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- ¼ cup chardonnay or other dry white wine
- ⅓ cup whipping cream
- ¼ cup reserved oyster liqueur strained to remove any shell bits or grit
- 3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs divided
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese divided
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Loosely scrunch tin foil , then open it up to arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. (The foil will help keep the oysters upright in the pan). Set aside.
MAKE THE BIENVENUE SAUCE:
- In a small skillet, heat the butter over medium heat and add the minced celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic, scallion. Cook for 3-5 minutes to sweat the vegetables until they’re tender and slightly translucent.
- Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly until the flour gets pasty. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
- Add the cream and reserved oyster liqueur. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes until the sauce is thick and creamy. If it’s too stiff, add a tablespoon or two more oyster liqueur or wine.
- Fold in 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese.
- Combine and reserve the remaining 1 tablespoon each of crumbs and cheese in a separate bowl.
- Set aside the bienvenue sauce to cool while you prepare the oysters.
SHUCK THE OYSTERS:
- Wear the oyster gloves to protect your hands. Rest the oyster, cup side down on the old dish towel to secure it. Insert the tip of the oyster knife into the hinge of the oyster, forcing it open and twisting to break the hinge. (Wipe the knife off on the towel).
- Slide the oyster knife along the top of the shell to disconnect the meat from the shell. Try not to lose the oyster liqueur as you want it for the sauce.
- Transfer the oysters in their shell to the tin foil lined baking sheet in such a way that they stand upright and not lean to one side. Continue to shuck the oysters, in this manner.
ASSEMBLE THE OYSTERS:
- Top each oyster with a spoonful (about 2 teaspoons each) of the bienvienue sauce. Transfer the oysters to the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Divide the remaining cheese and breadcrumb mixture and sprinkle over the oysters. Turn the broiler on to high and broil the oysters for 2-3 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and lightly crusty.
- Serve immediately.
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