Oysters are out of season during the months of May, June, July, and August. The rule is to use oysters only in the months that have the letter r in the name.
When served raw, the small varieties are the best. They are left on the deep half of the shell. Six are allowed for each person. They should be arranged regularly on the plate around a little ice broken fine, the valve side toward the center of plate, and in the center of the circle a quarter of a lemon. A few sprigs of parsley or cress under the lemon makes a pretty garnish. Black and red pepper are served with raw oysters, and also very thin slices of buttered brown bread.
Oysters served raw should be very fresh. It is therefore not desirable to use them in this way when one lives inland. To prevent the chance of any bits of shell getting into oyster dishes, they should be washed; each oyster being taken on a fork and dipped into water. As they are largely composed of water, this will not injure their flavor. The juice should be strained through a coarse sieve.
Oysters require very little cooking. They are put over the fire in their own liquor, and removed the moment they are plump or the gills are curled. More cooking than this makes them tough.
Drain the oysters. Roll each one first in cracker crumbs, then in egg mixed with a little milk, and seasoned with pepper and salt, then again in the cracker crumbs. Use first the crumbs, as the egg will not otherwise adhere well to the oyster. Place them in a wire basket, and immerse in smoking hot fat. As soon as they assume a light-amber color drain, and serve immediately.
Oysters should not be fried until the moment of serving, for they are quickly cooked and it is essential to have them hot.
Prepare a Villeroi sauce (see page 280). Heat the oysters in their own liquor until plump, then remove and wipe them dry. Place them on a pan turned bottom side up, leaving a space around each one. With a spoon cover each oyster with the thick sauce, and set them away for several hours to cool and harden; then trim them to good shape. Take one at a time on a broad knife or spatula, and, holding it over a dish containing beaten egg, coat it well with egg; then cover it with fresh bread crumbs and draw the coating around the whole oyster. Place the rolled oysters in a wire basket, and immerse in hot fat until an amber color. Dress them on a folded napkin, and serve with a Bechamel sauce, or with the same sauce with which they are coated, diluted with stock or oyster juice. A little chopped truffle and mushrooms improve the sauce.
Broil them on both sides for a few minutes over bright coals. Have ready some toast cut into uniform shapes and moistened with oyster juice. On each crouton place three or four oysters, and pour over them a little melted maitre d'hotel sauce.