Robert Holley brings a classic formal background combined with a simplistic country French approach to one of the nation’s most popular seafood restaurants, Atlanta Fish Market, where he was hired to lead the kitchen in 2000 by Pano Karatassos of Buckhead Life.
Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Holley worked at a local restaurant to help pay for his college education. It was here that he found that he was better suited for the restaurant business. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, New York, in 1987, he went to work for the brother-and-sister team of Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze at New York’s famous La Bernadin for four years where he learned the special skills of fish preparation. Chef Holley won a Silver Medal as captain of the U.S. team in the Culinary Olympics in Germany and has cooked at the prestigious James Beard House in New York.
(Oyster photo courtesy of Haigwood Studios, photo of Robert Holley courtesy Amy Sinclair, bio courtesy of Buckhead Life)
1 pound spinach
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp yellow onion finely chopped
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp fennel finely chopped
¼ cup celery finely chopped
4 slices thick cut bacon finely chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp amaretto liqueur
1 ¾ cup heavy cream
½ tsp ground star anise
1 tsp fennel seed
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 ½ cup shredded asiago cheese
½ Tbsp Tabasco sauce
½ cup white bread crumbs (or panko works well as a substitute)
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
2 lemons, 1 juiced and 1 sliced in quarters
12 blue Point oysters
Sauté bacon and ¼ cup olive oil in a large pan until almost crispy. Add the onions, celery, and fennel and cook about 5 minutes until fragrant. Add the liqueur, star anise, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Continue cooking for about 2 more minutes. Add the heavy cream and reduce to very thick consistency, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the asiago cheese, finish with lemon juice and Tabasco sauce. Chill the mixture for about 30 minutes or until cold.
Sauté spinach and remaining olive oil in a medium pan until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Chill the spinach for about 30 minutes or until cold.
In a small bowl or cup, mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Finely chop the spinach and add to the cream base, season to taste with salt and pepper. Shuck the oysters, top with spinach mixture and sprinkle with bread crumb mixture. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.