Oysters Clara

By: Hannah Lee Leidy
Oysters Clara
Courtesy Image

Called oysters clara, after chef Ashleigh Fleming’s grandmother, this hors d’oeuvre from Blue Jay Bistro in Littleton, North Carolina, puts a Southern spin on the classic winter entertaining dish. It consists of fried oysters (Gulf if available) nestled over a collard green béchamel.

Drawing from her Texas roots and memory of her grandmother’s recipe, Fleming’s collards are heavy on tomato, bacon, and red onion–sans sugar and vinegar. For heat, she incorporates a combo of chilis, as well as cumin and Cholula hot sauce. From there, she combines all to turn it into béchamel with cream cheese, parmesan, and heavy cream (the play on the standard creamed spinach).

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Yields 1 dozen oysters

    Collard Green Bechamel
  • 1 tablespoon blended oil
  • 8 ounces smoked bacon, small diced
  • 1 cup onion, small diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bunches collard greens, fresh, de-stemmed, and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 cups chicken or pork stock
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese
  • Fried Oysters
  • 12 oysters in shell
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Make the bechamel:

  1. In a heavy bottom pot over medium heat, add oil. Once shimmering add bacon. Cook until half rendered.
  2. Add onion and stir well to combine. Allow to cook until onions become fragrant and translucent (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in tomato paste. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add collards and stir to combine completely. Add seasonings. Add stock and stir. Cover with lid and turn heat to low. Cook for roughly 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Taste and adjust flavor with salt as needed. If necessary, add stock back in to adjust consistency.
  4. Pour off excess liquid and reserve. Add cream and stir over low-mid heat. Gently fold in parmesan cheese and stir to make fully homogenous. Cook over low heat until cream and parmesan have melted together. Taste and adjust as desired.  

Fry the Oysters

  1. Shuck oysters. Reserve liquid from oysters together with meat in one small bowl.
  2. Place shells in water and scrub with small brush to free any debris. Place brushed shells in a large heavy bottom pot and cover with water. Bring shells and water to boil. Cook for 20 minutes checking to make sure pot does not run dry. Once boiled sufficiently, rinse in cold water. Lay out on sheet pan with towels to dry.
  3. While shells boil, in a medium bowl, combine buttermilk and hot sauce. In separate medium bowl, combine spices and flour. 
  4. In a large heavy bottom pot (or deep fryer), heat oil to 350 degrees. 
  5. Drain liquid from oysters. Dunk drained oysters in buttermilk mixture. Shake off excess liquid, drop them in flour, and toss gently to coat. 
  6. Drop oysters gently in fryer. Fry until oysters float, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from oil, drain on paper towels, and season with salt. 


Place cleaned shells on a plate. Top shells with bechamel, and place fried oysters on top of bechamel.

  • Created by Ashleigh Flemming, Blue Jay Bistro, North Carolina

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