A Ragoo of Oysters

There are connoisseurs of oysters on the half shell. This recipe, however, combines the great flavor of a fried oyster with the added goodness of a beef sauce.

18th Century

Open twenty large oyster, take them out of their liquor, save the liquor, and dip the oysters in a batter made thus: take two eggs, beat them well, a little lemon-peel grated, a little nutmeg grated, a blade of mace pounded fine, a little parsley chopped fine; beat altogether with a little flour, have ready some butter or dripping in a stew pan; when it boils, dip in your oysters one by one, into the batter, and fry them of a fine brown; then with an egg slice take them out, and lay them in a dish before the fire. Pour the fat out of the pan, and shake a little flour over the bottom of the pan, then rub a piece of butter, as big as a small walnut, all over with your knife, whilst it is over the fire; then pour in three spoonfuls of the oyster liquor strained, one spoonful of white wine, and a quarter of a pint of gravy; grate a little nutmeg, stir altogether, throw in the oysters, give the pan a toss round, and when the sauce is of a good thickness, pour all into the dish, and garnish with raspings.

Hannah Glasse, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy“ 1796.

21st Century

  • 1 Pint of select oysters drained
  • The oysters’ liquid
  • 2 eggs
  • Grated peel from ½ lemon
  • â…› tsp. grated nutmeg
  • â…› tsp. ground mace
  • 1½ tsp. of chopped fresh parsley
  • Approx. ¼ cup of flour for thickening the batter
  • 1 ¼ stick of butter
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine (your choice of type)
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • Dash of ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp. bread crumbs
  1. Drain your oysters through a colander into a mixing bowl.
  2. Whip your eggs well in another mixing bowl.
  3. Add the lemon peel, nutmeg, mace and parsley and whisk a few times to blend seasonings.
  4. Add about a tablespoon of flour and whisk the eggs to create the batter. If it is thin add a little more flour until it becomes a light batter with no flour lumps. This should not be thick but enough to cling to the oysters.
  5. Pat your oysters dry with a thin cloth so that the batter will adhere.
  6. In a fry pan put 1 stick of butter and bring heat to medium to medium high. Do not burn the butter.
  7. Dip your oysters in the batter one by one and fry them to a golden color. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.
  8. Pour the butter out of the pan. Wipe it with a paper towel and place back on the burner at medium heat.
  9. Shake a couple of tablespoons of flour into the fry pan.
  10. Take the ¼ stick of butter and swirl it around the fry pan with the flour.
  11.  Add ¼ cup of the oyster liquid to the butter and whisk together.
  12.  Add the wine, broth and dash of nutmeg and whisk until it looks like a smooth sauce.
  13.  Gently fold your oysters back into this sauce for about a minute or so.
  14. Plate them and add the bread crumbs around the edge of the dish.

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6 Responses to “A Ragoo of Oysters”

  1. December 6th, 2014

    Alex says:

    Hello!

    Sorry for posting this here, but I couldn’t find a way to directly contact Historic Foodways. I visited C. Williamsburg a number of years ago and find myself wanting to recreate the delicious, sweet cornbread that I had at the Bakery there. I live in Belgium, and I can’t go back to get more so I’ve been looking for a recipe everywhere but can’t find it!

    Would Historic Foodways be willing to share that recipe here on this website?

    Thanks so much for compiling these recipes and offering your historically correct advice. It’s a great resource for those interested in early American food.

    • December 10th, 2014

      Historic Foodways says:

      This kind of cornbread did not exist in the 18th century because they did not know of baking powder of soda to leaven with at this time. So we cannot give them a period recipe for it but here is a modern cornbread recipe. Enjoy!

      Golden Northern Cornbread
      1 cup (5oz) stone ground cornmeal
      1 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour
      4 tsp sugar
      2 tsp baking powder
      ½ tsp baking soda
      ½ tsp salt
      2 large eggs
      2/3 cup buttermilk
      2/3 cups whole milk
      2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled

      1. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Crease a 9 inch square baking pan. Stir cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl to combine. Make a well in center of dry ingredients.
      2. Crack eggs into well and stir gently with wooden spoon. Add butter milk, then quickly stir wet ingredients into the dry, stirring until almost combine. Add butter and stir until ingredients are just combined. DO NOT OVER MIX. This should take no more than 20 folds or stirs.
      3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until top is golden brown and lightly cracked and edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes.
      4. Transfer to wire rack and let cool slightly, 5 to 10 minutes, and serve.

  2. December 11th, 2014

    Alex says:

    Wonderful! Thanks so much for your help. Instead of baking powder (which is indeed a Victorian invention), would they just use yeast instead?

    • December 11th, 2014

      Historic Foodways says:

      Unfortunately yeast and corn do not get along very well it is hard to get yeast to ferment corn meal. I think that we also have a sweeter corn meal then they did using modern sweet corn rather then the flint and field corn they used. The 18th century versions of corn bread where usually baked on a griddle or fried in a pan and are more like what we think of as Johnny cakes or Hoe cakes, then the light fluffy sweet stuff we eat now as corn bread. I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t an adaptation of the Scottish bannock or oat cake, but using American corn.

  3. March 18th, 2017

    Andrea S says:

    I was just wondering if you can update the measurements for â…› tsp. grated nutmeg
    â…› tsp. ground mace
    I would like to try and make this but I’m not sure of how much of these ingredients to use and a little bit of this goes a long way and I don’t want to make it too strong.

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