Cookbook Review: The P&J Cookbook, Edited by Kit Wohl and the Sunseri Family

by Nicholas Rummell
March 2012

Mary Macs Tea Room

Cookbook Stats

Heady Quote:
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Difficulty Level: Most recipes are easy, but all are appropriate for professionals and home cooks (provided they have access to fresh oysters).

Chapters: Raw; Grilled; Fried; Baked; Soups, Gumbos, and Stews; Casseroles, Pastas, and Pies; Gratins, Stuffings and Dressings; Stocks, Sauces, and Seasonings.

Recipes: P&J’s Oyster Ceviche; Barbecued Oysters with Blue-Cheese Dipping Sauce; Angels on Horseback; Carpetbagger Steak with Tasso Hollandaise; Oyster Biscuit Pudding; Ole-fashioned Oyster Chowder; Oyster and Mushroom Tart

Want simple? There’s nothing more simplistic—and flavorful—than six raw oysters on a bed of crushed ice. Maybe get fancy and add a wedge of lemon or some quick-made mignonette. Simple, but oh-so-perfect, briny, umami flavor. That’s the first page of The P&J Cookbook, which shows the sea critter-laden deck of an oyster boat, but it’s hardly the last word on the subject. The P&J features more than 120 oyster recipes from the likes of New Orleans’ mainstay restaurants Arnaud’s, Tujague’s, Commander’s Palace, and Stella! (as well as a few choice pickins’ from the P&J family archives). From frozen granités to baked gratins, from shooters to salsas, The P&J Cookbook is a love letter to the oyster’s versatility, illustrated by pictures that highlight every slippery lobe.

The Sunseri family—who own P&J Oyster Company, one of the most well-known mollusk purveyors in the Gulf—first moved to the United States from the Adriatic Sea in the 1800s. The family of fishermen was likely drawn to the area by the oyster’s gurgling siren song, and have since become the mollusk purveyor of choice for many of N’awlins chefs, including Creole queen Chef Leah Chase, who has claimed she won’t serve oysters from anywhere else. The P&J Cookbook recipes feature only the Gulf oysters or their similarly meaty Totten Inlet cousins (sorry Kumamoto or Beausoleil lovers), but the recipes are varied enough to make appropriate substitutions.