Preparation Of Oysters
OYSTERS, CLAMS, and SCALLOPS are salt-water fish that belong to the family of mollusks, or soft-bodied animals. They are entirely encased in hard shells, which, though of the same general shape, differ somewhat from each other in appearance. Oysters are larger than clams and have a rough, uneven shell, whereas clams have a smooth, roundish shell.
The protein of oysters, like that found in other foods, is coagulated by heat. Long heat, provided it is sufficiently intense, makes oysters tough, and in this condition they are neither agreeable to eat nor readily digested. When they are to be cooked at a high temperature, therefore, the cooking should be done quickly. If they are to be cooked at a temperature below the boiling point, they may be subjected to heat for a longer time without becoming so tough as when a
high temperature is used. Cooking quickly at a high temperature, however, is preferable in most cases to long, slow cooking. For example, in the preparation of oyster stew, long cooking produces no better flavor than short cooking at a high temperature and renders oysters far less digestible.
Unless oysters are bought already opened, it becomes necessary to open them in the home before they can be served raw or cooked. To open oysters is not difficult, and with a little experience the work can be done with ease. It will be well to note that the two shells of an oyster, which are called ‘valves’, are held together by a single muscle, known as the ‘adductor
muscle’, that lies near the centre, and that this muscle must be cut before the shell will open readily. Before attempting to open oysters, however, they should be scrubbed with clean water, so as to remove any sand that may be on the shells.
If the oysters that are being opened are to be cooked before serving, simply drop them with their liquid into a suitable vessel and discard the shells. Before using the oysters, remove them from the liquid, look them over carefully to see that no small particles of shells cling to them, and wash them in clean, cold water to remove any sand that may be present. Also, strain the liquid through a cloth, so that it will be free from sand when used in the preparation of the dish for which the
oysters are to be used or for the making of soup or broth.