BBQ-Baked Oysters

Marc is constantly searching for fun ways of combining his love for classic French classic cuisine with traditional American products and dishes. This recipe does just that: Freshly shucked oysters and béchamel are boosted by bacon, barbecue sauce and the deeply smoky flavors of the Ararat blend. It’s a dish that Marc has been serving since the day he opened his restaurant.

Ararat N35 – Recipe from Marc Forgione, Restaurant Marc Forgione, New York City

Makes 4 appetizer servings

Ingredients

4 thin slices bacon
½ stick unsalted butter, diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
½ red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons Ararat N.35 spice blend, plus more for garnish
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup pepper jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1½ cups whole milk
1 dozen oysters, on the half shell
¼ cup prepared barbecue sauce
Lime wedges and cilantro leaves, for garnish

Instructions

• Preheat the oven to 350° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.. Add the bacon and bake until crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, then very finely chop the bacon and set aside on paper towels. Keep warm.

• In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the vegetables and cook over medium heat until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the Ararat and the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, bring to a simmer and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until you can’t taste the flour and the sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.

• Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the herbs, then the cheese. Let the béchamel cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. (The béchamel can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Let warm to room temperature for 30 minutes before using).

• Preheat the broiler. Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the oysters on the rack. Spoon about 1 tablespoon béchamel over each oyster and brush each with 1 teaspoon barbecue sauce. Broil the oysters until the sauce is bubbling, about 4 to 5 minutes.

• Sprinkle each oyster with bacon powder and a small pinch of Ararat. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with lime wedges.