As an ingredient in my Oysters Voisin Bisque, oysters are a contrast. They are as strong and impenetrable as they are gentle and delicate. Much like the late Mike Voisin from Terrebonne Parish.
Up until his untimely passing, this great man was the champion of Louisiana’s oyster fishermen and a stalwart leader in the Louisiana seafood industry. His pearls of wisdom are strung throughout the many successful projects and initiatives he helped lead. It’s only fitting that Acadiana Table recognize Mike’s importance to South Louisiana culinary culture with a dish in his honor called Oysters Voisin Bisque.
As Louisiana and one of the nation’s largest oyster processors, Mike Voisin definitely knew a thing or two about harvesting the briny bivalves. Oysters are a sensitive and vulnerable shellfish in their ability to filter ocean waters and come to flavor-filled maturity in such a short time. But, there are many obstacles to arriving at our dinner table and over the past five years, it was an especially challenging time in Mike Voisin’s oyster world with hurricanes, oil spills and labor policy changes all inundating the state’s seafood industry.
During a visit to Mike’s plant, Motivatit Seafood, in Houma, I was relieved to see that all is well with this year’s bumper harvest of Louisiana oysters coming to market. Motivatit’s oysters from coastal Louisiana beds are especially salty and meaty with excellent oyster liquor. It is that accompanying oyster jus that is a must-have ingredient in my Oysters Voisin Bisque recipe.
Oyster liquor is a strange concoction made naturally by the bivalve. It is a briny and unctuous, flavor-filled liquid that has a sticky feel to it. As an ingredient, it contributes both taste and texture in a delicate way that suspends the oysters in a bath of flavor. It is the essence of oyster.
This Cajun recipe for Oysters Voisin Bisque has many underlying layers and cheese is one of them. Many opt for Brie in oyster soup recipes, but I prefer Boursin as it has a smoother, creamier texture and mild flavor which pairs well with the delicate Louisiana oysters. Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs is made simply from milk, cream, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and chives and is a natural Gournay cheese from the Normandy region of northern France. The infusion of herbs and garlic give this cheese a vibrant edge that supplants the need for too many added components. All that is needed is an accent of fresh thyme that enhances the delicate balance of the dish and, of course, spinach.
Spinach and oysters are a natural. Not only for connection to the famous Rockefeller dish, but spinach as a leafy vegetable, has many of the same delicate traits as oysters–a perfect blend of unassuming ingredients.
A splash of Herbsaint liqueur elevates the elegance of this dish, and although used sparingly, the anise flavor is very pronounced. Herbsaint entered into Louisiana along the time that Absinthe was banned, and it caught on as a key ingredient in many Creole cocktails. Its translated French meaning is “sacred herb” and it brings a sense of reverence to this oyster soup.
The crowning glory of this Cajun recipe for Oysters Voisin Bisque is the puff pastry that seals the flavors in and creates a golden brown delicious crust that adds texture to the velvety smooth, cream-kissed treasure inside.
I think Mike would be proud and give praise to how we’ve showcased his oysters–a gentle and delicate tribute to a great man.
Amen and pass the crackers.
- 1 quart shucked Louisiana oysters
- 1 cup quality oyster liquor
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup diced white onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- ½ cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Herbsaint liqueur
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cups firmly-packed fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
- 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 3 packages (5.5 ounce) Boursin with Garlic and Fine Herbs cheese
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- Dash of hot sauce
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry sheets
- 1 egg
- Baguette slices, toasted
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Remove 1 dozen oysters from the container to a chopping board, chop them coarsely and move to a cold metal bowl. Remove another dozen oysters from the container and move them straight to the same metal bowl. Remove 1 cup of oyster liquor from the container and reserve. Refrigerate all.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the onions, celery, and bell pepper and cook until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and flour and continue cooking while whisking constantly to make a light roux.
- Once the flour has absorbed the butter and has cooked out the flour taste, about 5 minutes, add half of the Herbsaint. Cook until the alcohol begins to burn off, about 3 minutes, and then add the heavy cream along with the fresh thyme, spinach leaves, and lemon juice. Continue cooking and stirring as the cream reduces by half.
- Unwrap two of the packages of Boursin cheese and chop it into chunks. Add the cheese to the pot along with some of the half and half. Continue cooking on a low simmer as the ingredients come together. Add more of the half and half to thin out the thickened soup. Add the white pepper and a dash of hot sauce to taste. Correct the seasoning by adding salt, if needed.
- Bring the bisque to a simmer, but careful not to let it boil. Add the rest of the Herbsaint as well as more of the half and half, and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the remaining oysters.
- Unpackage the puff pastry and move to a cutting board. Turn the ramekins over and cut a square large enough to fit over the opening of the bowl. With the reserved puff pastry sheets, cut a “V” shape and place on top of the pastry squares.
- Fill the bowls with the oyster bisque and place the pastry squares over the bowls and crease around the edges. Brush the egg on top. Place them on a cookie sheet and move to the oven. Cook until the pastry bakes to a golden brown. Remove from the oven.
- Open the remaining package of Boursin and spread the baguette slices with a thick layer of cheese. Place them on a sheet pan and place in the oven under the broiler. Watch closely. It will only take seconds for the cheese to brown and melt. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
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