Drain them well in a colander, marinate them, i. e., sprinkle over plenty of pepper and salt, and let them remain in a cold place for at least half an hour before serving. This makes a great difference in their flavor. They may be served in the half-shell with quarters or halves of lemons in the same dish, I think a prettier arrangement is to serve them in a block of ice. Select a ten-pound block; melt with a hot flat-iron a symmetrical-shaped cavity in the top to hold the oysters; chip also from the sides at the base, so that the ice-block may stand in a large platter on the napkin. When the oysters are well salted and peppered, place them in the ice, and let them remain in some place where the ice will not melt until the time of serving. The sait will help to make the oysters very cold. The ice may be decorated with leaves or smilax vines, and a row of lemon quarters or halves may be placed around the platter at the base of the ice. It has an especially pretty ef-fect served on a table by gas-light. The English often serve little thin squares of buttered brown bread (like Boston brown bread) with oysters.
Drain the oysters in the colander; sprinkle over pepper and salt, which mix well with them, and put them in a cold place for fifteen or twenty minutes before cooking. This is mari-nating them. When ready to cook, roll each one first in sifted cracker-crumbs, then in beaten egg mixed with a little milk and seasoned with pepper and salt, then in the cracker-crumbs again. You will please remember the routine: first, the crumbs before the egg, as the egg will not adhere well to the oyster without the crumbs; now throw them into boiling-hot lard (as you would fry doughnuts), first testing to see if it is hot enough. As soon as they assume a light-brown color they should be drained, and served immediately on a hot platter.
Oysters should not be fried until the persons at table are ready to eat them, as it takes only a few moments to fry them, and they are not good unless very hot.
The platter of oysters may be garnished with a table-spoonful of chopped pickles or chowchow placed at the four opposite sides; or the oysters may be served as a border around cold slaw (see receipt, page 224), when they are an especially nice course for dinner; or they may be served with celery, either plain or in salad. As the platter for the fried oysters is hot, the celery salad or cold slaw might be piled on a folded napkin in the centre.
They may be served cooked in their shells, or in silver scallop shells, when they present a better appearance than when cooked and served all in one dish.
If cooked in an oyster or clam shell, one large, or two or three little oysters are placed in it, with a few drops of the oyster liquor. It is sprinkled with pepper and salt, and cracker or bread crumbs. Little pieces of butter are placed over the top. When all are ready, they are put into the oven. When they are plump and hot, they are done. Brown the tops with a salamander, or with a red-hot kitchen shovel.
If they are cooked in the silver scallop shells, which are larger, several oysters are served in the one shell; one or two are put in, peppered, salted, strewed with cracker-crumbs and small pieces of butter; then more layers, until the shell is full, or until enough are used for one person. Moisten them with the oyster-juice, and strew little pieces of butter over the top. They are merely kept in the oven until they are thoroughly hot, then browned with a salamander. Serve one shell for each person at table, placed on a small plate. The oysters may be bearded or not.