If you are of a certain age, you will remember these fondly, especially at this time of the year.
Oysters have been an important part of a Thanksgiving menu since the Indians brought them to that first three day celebration with the Pilgrims in 1620. They were particularly popular in New York and New England. During the heyday of New York’s oyster production (In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the city’s waters produced around 700 million oysters a year) East Coast cookbooks unanimously and prominently featured oysters on the Thanksgiving Day. menu.
|The Plaza Hotel 1899|
The trend seems to have taken a real upswing in the Gilded Age and endured — at least in the cookbooks sampled — until around WWII. What happened then? They probably became too much of a luxury, I suppose, and in the city, the local beds were long since polluted and harvested into depletion.
This particular recipe used to be a classic in the mid 1900,s but it too disappeared from everyone's radar. Perhaps people got tired of it or oysters became prohibitively expensive to serve for a group. Those who know about the good things in life have not forgotten them. You can buy them shucked, in their liquid, in the Fish section of most grocery stores. They are not that expensive and taste very fresh. If you want to impress a group of gourmets sometime, I suggest you serve them. I, on the other hand, am trying to singlehandedly revive them. It's simply too good a recipe to shelve. Aside from Thanksgiving, Creamed Oysters make for a wonderful lunch, served with a salad. The cornbread is a new twist on the usual thin toast over which they are serve. It is not my idea. It is Gourmet's.
Readers know that this time next week I will be entertaining my grandchildren for Thanksgiving for the first time ever. For this occasion, they will be the guests of honors and will be catered to in every which way a grandmother knows how to do, but to a certain extent. Yes they will be privy to all the things Lindaraxa enjoyed as a child but they will also sit at the table and hopefully behave like their parents have trained them to. I did not get to sit with the grown ups until after I was eight but parents these days are different so we must adapt. Compromise, my favorite new word.
I enjoyed a small sample for lunch today after I shot these photos. Yep. that's my plate. I had every intention of bringing out the silver and staging a more professional shoot, but promptly gave up. They looked too good to pass up.
Creamed Oysters on Toasted Corn Bread
Serves 8 as a first course
- 1/2 cup minced shallot
- 1/2 cup minced celery plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery leaves
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 32 shucked oysters, reserving 1 1/4 cups of the liquor, strained
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground celery seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- 8 squares of corn bread, split, toasted, and buttered
In a large heavy saucepan cook the shallot and the minced celery in the butter over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, add the flour, and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes. Stir in the reserved oyster liquor, the milk, and the cream, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, and simmer it, stirring, for 3 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, the celery seeds, the cayenne, the oysters, and salt to taste, simmer the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the edges of the oysters curl, and stir in the celery leaves.
Arrange a bottom half of a corn bread square on each of 8 heated plates, spoon the creamed oysters over the bottom halves, and top them with the remaining halves.