Baltimore Bacon Oysters

In the early twentieth century, when Baltimore boasted more than two dozen breweries, it became a practice in the city’s bars to offer free oysters to anyone ordering local beer. Usually, they were simply on the half shell, but as the tradition developed and competition for business heated up, some bars came up with novel ways to serve the oysters that would attract customers. I like to think that this is the way the blissful marriage of oysters and bacon was first conceived. Do be careful not to overcook the oysters, which toughens them.

Ingredients

  • 6 slices lean bacon, cut in half crosswise
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • pints fresh shucked oysters, drained and 1 cup of liquor reserved
  • tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Toast points

Method

In a medium skillet, fry the bacon over moderate heat till crisp, drain on paper towels, crumble, and reserve. Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of grease from the skillet, melt the butter in the grease, add the oysters, and sauté about 1 minute on each side or till the edges begin to curl. Transfer the oysters to a plate.

Add the flour to the skillet and cook over moderate heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the reserved oyster liquor plus the horseradish and salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, till the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from the heat, add the oysters, and heat well.

To serve, arrange the oysters on toast points, spoon a little sauce over each, and top with sprinklings of crumbled bacon.