The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.53
SUMMER2017

Lady Clark’s oyster sauce for steaks.

Strictly speaking her cooks’ and friends rather than her own, thousands of recipes were compiled by the Chatelaine of Tillypronie during the second half of the nineteenth century. A certain poignancy marks The Cookery Book of Lady Clark of Tillypronie; her husband saw to its publication in 1909 following her death.

Oysters then were cheap and often stood for much dearer mushrooms as a savory seasoning. This simple sauce, which Lady Clark attributes to a Mrs. Thomas, deserves widespread revival for its intended use over ‘Beef Steaks.’ Four abstemious servings.


sauce_boat4.jpg

 

-a dozen oysters
-4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-2 Tablespoons flour (Wondra will not lump)
-about 1½ cups warm beef stock
-cayenne (optional but exemplary)
-Worcestershire

 


  1. Shuck the oysters and save their liquor.
  2. Make a brown roux by melting the butter with the flour over medium high heat and whisking the paste constantly until it turns a shade darker than peanut butter.
  3. Immediately reduce the heat to low and dribble the stock into the roux, whisking away, then add more liquid as the roux incorporates each earlier stream.
  4. Add the oyster liquor and season the sauce with a little cayenne and a drip of Worcestershire. Be careful; depending on the provenance of your oysters and their liquor, the sauce may be salty.
  5. Let the sauce stand on the barest heat until you are ready to serve your grilled and properly rested steaks. Then, and only then, increase the heat to low and dump the oysters into the sauce.
  6. Simmer it just until the edges of the oysters barely begin to curl, usually in only a minute or two.

Notes:

- Instructions for shucking an oyster appear in the practical.

- As Mrs. Thomas warns, while making the roux “[y]ou must stir all the time, that it may not burn.” If black flecks appear in the roux it has done just that and you cannot salvage it. Throw the batch away and start again.

- Mrs. Thomas cooks her oysters for a full five minutes before starting the sauce; bad idea, they will get tough and ‘fishy.’ She also includes elaborate instructions for bearding the oysters, stewing the beards and ‘horny parts,’ then pureeing the ‘horny part.’ Why the parts become a whole remains unclear. This represents unfamiliar territory to the Editor: American oysters apparently are both clean shaven and less libidinous than their nineteenth century British counterparts.

- Our proportions will produce a thinnish sauce; once you darken a roux, the flour’s ability to absorb liquid and thicken a sauce diminishes, more so the darker you make the roux. To make a thicker sauce, use less stock or more roux.

- Some people like to chop the oysters for this sauce: The choice is yours.

      Mrs. Thomas hedges her bet on the quantity of sauce you will need. She uses less stock than the Editor (“a teacupful of good brown stock”). The wry lady also warns: “Quantity for 2 couples or for 3 bachelors!”

      Your own always is best but storebought will do, particularly the new range of College Inn ‘Bold Stock’ in octagonal boxes.