Louisiana Oyster Toasts

Serves 4. Recipe is from Regina Keever in “New Orleans Homes at Christmas” by Bonnie Warren (Pelican Publishing Co., 2014). The flavors of this appetizer are delicious with Champage and have a holiday feel, she says, “but they are delicious anytime you can get great oysters. You could also toss the warm sauté with bow tie pasta for a decidedly rich Sunday supper.”

6 ounces pancetta, diced

1/4 cup white wine or vermouth

1 pint shucked oysters, drained and rinsed

t tablespoon butter, plus additional, softened, for spreading

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 to 3 leeks, washed and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

3/4 cup oyster mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup cream

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or sage

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot sauce to taste

4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices good-quality white bread or brioche, halved diagonally into triangles

Minced scallions or snipped fresh chives, optional, for garnish

1. In a large skillet, cook the pancetta until crispy. Transfer pancetta to a plate covered in paper towels, then drain the skillet of all but 1 tablespoon fat; set the skillet aside.

2. Heat the white wine in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When it starts to simmer, add the oysters and poach just until the edges start to curl, about 4 minutes (reduce the heat if simmer gets too lively). Drain the oysters in a fine colander placed over a large bowl, reserving the poaching liquid.

3. Reheat the skillet with bacon fat over medium-high heat, and add butter. When foaming subsides, add the onion, celery and leeks, and cook until fragrant and softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more. Sprinkle the vegetables with flour, then whisk in the reserved oyster-poaching liquid. Simmer over medium heat, continuously whisking, for 3 minutes.

4. Add the milk, cream and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until thickened and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.

5. When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and keep warm. Toast the bread, spread with softened butter, and place on individual plates. Stir the oysters into the cream sauce over low heat, and warm through.

6. To serve, spoon the oysters and sauce over the toast and sprinkle with pancetta. Top with scallions or chives, if desired.