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A Ragoo of Oysters

Serves 6 to 8

Washington's cash accounts indicated that he often purchased bushels of oysters to be prepared for his family's table.

Hannah Glasse’s “ragoo” (ragout) can be served as a starter or as a main course. The combination of spices with fresh parsley creates a flavorsome dish.

Batter:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • /4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 pints fresh shucked oysters in their liquor
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, plus more if needed
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Browned buttered breadcrumbs for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F.
  2. To make the batter, beat the eggs until frothy. Blend in the lemon zest, nutmeg, mace, parsley, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the flour until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Cover and set aside.
  3. Put the oysters in a strainer set over a bowl, and set aside to drain, reserving the liquor.
  4. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and the lard in a large frying pan over medium heat. Dip the oysters one by one in the batter, and sauté on both sides until lightly browned. Drain the oysters on paper towels, and set aside in the oven to keep warm.
  5. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour, blending in well and stirring until lightly browned. Gradually add the wine, chicken broth, nutmeg, and reserved oyster liquor. Whisk constantly until the sauce bubbles and thickens slightly. Season with salt if necessary.
  6. To serve, place the oysters in a bowl, pour the sauce on top, and garnish with breadcrumbs.

This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons (2011).