One thing I really enjoy is collecting and studying old cookbooks. It's fun to look at the types of dishes that were eaten and what people enjoyed. It is really interesting to make an old recipe-- you get the "feel" of what people were like by what foods they enjoyed eating-- what they thought was yummy!
Anyway, I have a cookbook that has a favorite recipe of John Adams, second President of the United States. It was something called "Oyster Rolls". Ordinarily, I don't buy oysters in August, but they had local, wild, Texas oysters at the market today and they looked good. I had just looked at the oyster roll recipe the previous day, so obviously, I was supposed to make them! I was excited to try a recipe that people enjoyed over 200 years ago, but I thought it would probably be bland (I've noticed people were very conservative about seasoning until very recently.) However, these turned out great! I adapted the recipe a little for modern methods, but kept the ingredients the same.
John Adam's Oyster Rolls
2 small French rolls
1 pt. shucked oysters (save the oyster liquor)
2 T. butter
4 peppercorns (yes, the recipe said "4")
1/4 tsp. mace
2 T. minced parsley
fresh lemon, optional
1. Cut the tops off the two rolls and remove some of the bread to make a trench in the rolls.
2. Toast the rolls lightly under the broiler-- watch carefully! Preheat the oven to 375F.
3. Drain the oyster liquor into a small saucepan. Add the peppercorns, mace, and nutmeg.
4. Heat the liquid gently, not to a boil.
5. Add the oysters and the butter. Let them cook very slowly until the edges of the oysters curl.
6. Add the parsley. Taste for seasoning. Make sure there is enough salt.
7. Use a slotted spoon to remove the oysters into the rolls. Heat them in the oven for 3-5 min.
8. Meanwhile, boil the oyster liquid so it can reduce a bit.
9. When the rolls are done, place in a shallow bowl. Spoon the reduced oyster liquid over the rolls. Add a spritz of fresh lemon if you want, although this isn't in the original recipe.
10. You'll need to eat these with a fork because the liquid makes them soft, but they are quite good!
Note: One other thing I learned from this recipe is to cook oysters very slowly. This helps them stay tender. This method also works well when boiling shrimp-- keeps them from getting rubbery.
All his portraits look pretty stern, but maybe John Adams was a fun guy afterall !