Oysters au Gratin

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

By Annie Gray

Published 2019

  • About

As exquisite as raw oysters are, they were also very popular cooked in the Edwardian era, and a large number of such recipes appear in cookbooks of the time (quite a lot involving Champagne). They were eaten as canapés and hors d’oeuvres and also made an appearance in the savory course at the end of the meal. They had once been so plentiful that they were eaten by everyone, and although they were becoming scarcer, and therefore more expensive, by the twentieth century, they were still eaten frequently. Oysters are on the menu at Edith’s wedding breakfast in season 3, and are eventually consumed by the servants at a memorable servants’ tea.


  • ½ cup (120 ml) half-and-half
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons (60 g) butter
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 anchovy fillets in oil, minced
  • Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 24 oysters in the shell, scrubbed
  • cup (70 g) dried bread crumbs
  • 1 cup (115 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


Combine the half-and-half, wine, butter, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the butter melts and all the ingredients are well mixed and heated through. Add the anchovies, cayenne, and lemon zest, stir well, and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

To shuck each oyster, protect your nondominant hand with a folded towel and place the oyster, flat side up, on the towel. Locate the hinge in the pointed end, insert the tip of an oyster knife into the hinge, and turn the knife to break the hinge and loosen the shell. Run the blade along the inside surface of the upper shell, detaching the oyster from the shell, then lift off and discard the top shell. Run the knife along the inside of the rounded bottom shell to detach the oyster, lift out the oyster, and reserve the bottom shell.

Preheat the broiler. Stir together the bread crumbs and Parmesan in a small bowl. Arrange the bottom shells on a large sheet pan. Put a spoonful of the sauce in each bottom shell and lay an oyster on top. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the oysters.

Broil until the cheese is bubbling and the topping is crisp, 3–4 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with the parsley.

ALFRED: Is this all we’re getting? Just these picketty bits?

THOMAS: Hardly. These are canapés. Alfred, for your first course, some truffled egg on toast perhaps? Some oysters...?


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