This creamy, elegant dish (from New Orleans's Commander's Palace) can be made ahead of time and brought out as a first dinner course. The secret to its refined richness is a splash of anise spirit, such as pastis or even the intensely aromatic absinthe.
- 1 (9" x 11") sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and chilled
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 6 slices bacon, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 3⁄4 cup absinthe or pastis
- 20 medium oysters, such as bluepoints, shucked (1/3 cup of the liquor reserved)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 (9-oz.) package frozen artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped tarragon
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 400°. Using a 3" cookie cutter, cut 4 circles from the puff pastry. Transfer puff pastry circles to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush each circle with egg mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes; set puff pastry tops aside.
Melt butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add absinthe or pastis. Return saucepan to the heat and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the oyster liquor and cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cream has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add oysters, artichokes, and tarragon to the reduced cream mixture and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the oysters' edges begin to curl, about 2 minutes. Divide the oyster stew between four 6-oz. ramekins or bowls and top each with a puff pastry circle.