Oven-Roasted Oysters with Mushrooms and Watercress

These oysters might look intimidating, but they are easy day-of with a little bit of prep the day before.

Oven-Roasted Oysters with Mushrooms and Watercress
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards; Prop Styling and Floral Design: Sara York Grimshaw
Active Time:
30 mins
Roast Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
40 mins

When it comes to Christmas Eve dinner, planning is everything. That's chef Mike Lata's philosophy. Owner and culinary force behind FIG and The Ordinary restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, Mike Lata and his wife Jenni Ridall share the menu from their special Christmas Eve dinner. From Lowcountry Fish Stew to Carolina Gold Rice Middlins, their smart, seasonal menu is designed with plenty of do-ahead components.

Oysters might seem intimidating, but a bit of advance prep makes this appetizer simple. "The mushroom stuffing can be prepared and refrigerated a couple of days ahead," Lata says. "Then, it's easy to finish them off. Plenty of fresh herbs—including basil, chives, and thyme—keep this topping nice and light, while diced pancetta adds richness and fat. Shiitake mushrooms bring body, working with the oysters to make this appetizer slightly more substantial. Lata prefers oysters with deep cups to hold more filling. Serve these oven-roasted oysters on a tray of rock salt for a truly professional effect.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 ounces diced pancetta

  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots (about 4 small shallots)

  • ¼ cup finely chopped garlic (about 10 cloves)

  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and roughly chopped (about 4 cups)

  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 2 ounces dry sherry 

  • 1 (4-oz.) pkg. watercress (about 4 cups) 

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil

  • ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh chives

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 

  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs

  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about ½ cup)

  • 1 (4-lb.) box rock salt

  • 2 dozen deep cup East Coast oysters 

  • 3 (1- x 1½-inch) lemon peel strips, thinly sliced

  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low. Add olive oil and pancetta, and cook, stirring often, until pancetta is brown and fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring often, until lightly brown and toasted, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add sherry; cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Stir in watercress, basil, chives, and thyme; stir until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; season with kosher salt. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter; stir until melted. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped but not pureed, 4 to 5 pulses.

  2. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet. Add panko; cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano.

  3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with rock salt. Shuck oysters; loosen adductor muscles so oysters float freely in liquor in bottom cup. Gently remove any dirt or debris, taking care not to spill the briny liquor. Top each oyster with about 1 tablespoon mushroom mixture and 2 teaspoons panko mixture. Nestle oysters into rock salt on prepared pan. Roast until bubbly and hot, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven; garnish with lemon peel strips. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

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