America's Classics: April Bloomfield on the Grand Central Oyster BarJBF Editors
March 07, 2016
When I first moved to New York I wanted to check out the iconic places that make the city so special, so I went to the Grand Central Oyster Bar. I remember sitting at the bar and just watching all the guys shuck oysters—those guys are the fastest shuckers in the world. And to go and see them make this really amazing dish that they do there—the oyster pan roast—is pretty special. They have these things called steam kettles; they look like a big bowl and they produce steam, which gently warms heavy cream-based soups so they don’t burn, but it allows the soup to boil really fast. So what they do is they dump in a load of cream with some seasoning and some Worcestershire sauce, and I think there might be some ketchup in there too [editor’s note: it’s tomato-chili sauce]. And then they throw in the oysters and the little scallops and whatever else you want in your pan roast and they boil it really rapidly and they just dump it out into a bowl. It’s really dramatic: it kind of splashes everywhere, hits them on the hand, splashes the side of the bowl. There’s no elegance about it, it’s just good old gritty New York service.
I loved the steam kettles so much that when I opened the John Dory I ended up buying one and putting it in my kitchen. I make a pan roast that’s my homage to Grand Central Oyster Bar, with oysters, cream, Vermouth, onions, and tarragon, and we serve it with a little toast spread with uni butter.
But when I go to the Oyster Bar, I’m a purist. I just order oysters on the half shell—I like to get a nice selection of West Coast and East Coast oysters—with a little lemon, clams with a little bit of cocktail sauce, a pan roast, and an IPA. I keep it simple. I just sit at the oyster bar, order some oysters, and watch them pump out these pan roasts. If you want to get a sense of New York, it’s a great place to experience.
—April Bloomfield, JBF Award Winner
Our new America's Classics cookbook, James Beard’s All-American Eats: Recipes and Stories from Our Best-Loved Local Restaurants, is on sale now. Order your copy!