Baked Oysters with Pancetta

I wanted to cook something in Frank’s Bistro, so I went “shopping” down the kitchen line to see what had already been prepped and was waiting to be made into the various dishes on the menu. I found oysters, of course, sliced pancetta (unsmoked Italian bacon), some caramelized onions, chopped red chilies, and chopped parsley. So I made up this dish. I use large oysters for cooking, since they shrink down to a manageable size, while little ones would disappear.

You will need 4 ovenproof gratin dishes just large enough to hold 3 oysters each and some rock salt.

Ingredients

  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • salt
  • 12 large Bluepoint or Apalachicola oysters
  • rock salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 12 thin slices pancetta
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh red chilies (seeds and stems removed)

Method

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cook the red onions in a large frying pan with ¼ cup water and a pinch of salt over low heat, covered, until completely soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Then uncover, raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring all the time, until the onions are nut brown and caramelized.

Shuck the oysters, leaving them on the half-shell and reserving any oyster liquor. Fill 4 gratin dishes half full with rock salt and put them in the oven to heat.

Spoon the browned onions over the oysters, sprinkle with the lemon zest and any reserved oyster liquor, and then place a coiled slice of pancetta on top of each. Remove the gratin dishes from the oven, quickly nestle 3 oysters into the salt in each dish, and return them to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes.

Transfer gratin dishes to serving plates—a napkin folded in the center will cushion them and looks nice, too. Sprinkle the oysters first with chopped parsley, then with the chilies, and serve at once.

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