In Lesson 14 of the Saturday morning cooking class, Sue makes Escalloped Oysters. This is a continuing series from the pages of the 1924 book When Sue Began to Cook. We started with Lesson 1, which you can find by clicking the linked book title. Sue and her friend Ruth Ann completed an entire year of lessons, one Saturday at a time, and you will find them reproduced for the first time here.
Even in the Twenties a dish like Escalloped Oysters appeared on the table rarely. This was a holiday dish, a celebratory dish, or a Sunday dish for families who routinely made a fancy Sunday dinner for the family. Why Bettina guides while Sue makes Escalloped Oysters, I have no idea.
Several other less expensive and more family-friendly dishes could make their way into small casserole dishes. Perhaps it formed a basis for other escalloped dishes, like salmon, potatoes, tuna, or corn. Today we know of Scalloped Potatoes more often than any of the other options. Long ago we dropped the e in escalloped.
You can still find recipes for Scalloped (or Escalloped) Oysters online, so if you are so inclined you might want to give this recipe a try. It should work just as well with canned or fresh oysters. A 6 1/2 oz can of oysters should give you enough to make this recipe. The Spruce Eats gives the lowdown on cooked and canned oysters
Sue’s notes on Escalloped Oysters
Escalloped oysters is quite a grownup dish — a company dish too. So if it hadn’t been for the new little casseroles Mrs. Rambler gave to Ruth Ann and me for our cooking lessons, Mother might have had us make something else today. (I don’t call her old any more. She isn’t so awfully old when you know her.)
It was Ruth Ann who called for the basket and napkin after all. She said Mrs Rambler told her they were the best muffins she ever ate and they did her head lots of good. (Mother says she guesses the kind thought was what did her head the most good. And that very often cross people aren’t cross if you’re nice to them.) Well, Ruth Ann went in and had quite a nice little visit with her, and told her all about our cooking lessons. And the very next day, here came a messenger with two of the dearest little casseroles you ever saw in all your life, old Kitchen Diary. All wrapped up in tissue paper and ribbon. They were “for the two little cooks.” Of course we already had a casserole but it was an old one, and Mother’s. And these were brand new.
Mother showed us how to temper them so they wouldn’t crack. That meant to put them in a pan of cold water over the fire and let the water come to a boil slowly. After that they were safe, Mother said. But she told us we mustn’t ever put them right over the fire to melt butter in them or anything. Well, I certainly don’t intend to spoil mine that way!
Recipe for Escalloped Oysters
If you like buttered soft bread or cracker crumbs in food, you should love this.
- 1 pint oysters
- 3 cups cracker crumbs
- 2 tsp salt you may want less
- ¼ tsp paprika
- 5 Tbsp butter
- 2 ½ cups milk
- Mother had us each put our own oysters (of course a pint means two cupfuls) in a little strainer over a bowl so that we could catch all the liquor that drained off. Then she had us take up an oyster at a time and feel it to see if there was any shell in it or around it. Of course the shell had to be removed.
- We rolled our crackers fine with a rolling pin, putting them on a piece of nice clean brown paper to do it. Then we each melted our butter in the warm oven in the baking dish we were going to use and of course this buttered the dish and also saved using another. We mixed our cracker, melted butter, salt and paprika together in a clean pan, and when they were well mixed we spread a layer of this cracker mixture over the bottom of the dish. Then we added a layer of oysters (about a third of what we had), spreading them out flat with a fork. Then we spread anther layer of crumbs on them, enough to cover them from sight. Then we added more oysters and more crumbs, more oysters and more crumbs in the same way, having the top layer in crumbs.
- I forgot to say that we added milk to the oyster liquor so there were two and a half cups of liquids all together. We poured this gently over the top of the dish (I mean the contents of the dish) and then we baked it in a moderate oven for twenty minutes. [moderate oven = 350ºF] When the escalloped oysters were done they were a lovely brown color.