A Christmas Carol, the beloved Charles Dickens novel about the miserly Scrooge's evolution into a kindlier man, features a brilliant account of a Christmas dinner that the Cratchit family have thanks to Scrooge's new-found generosity. In some ways it has become the quintessential Christmas feast, full of bountiful food and good cheer.
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This year, celebrate your own special 21st-century Christmas à la Dickens with a modern dinner inspired by Victorian times.
In the 19th century, oysters, which were plentiful and cheap, were served either raw, as a stew or as fritters similar to this recipe. The fritters can be reheated in a 350 F oven for 5 minutes, but they are at their crispiest straight out of the skillet.
12 large oysters, shucked
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup finely chopped shallots
½ cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup cold water
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
½ cup vegetable oil for frying
Drain oysters in a strainer for a few minutes. Coarsely chop and return to strainer until ready to use.
Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and celery and sauté for 2 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Let cool.
Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in pepper. Make a well in the centre and drop the egg and water into the well. Slowly stir into flour mixture. Stir in shallot mixture and parsley. Stir in oysters.
Heat ½-inch oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until a cube of bread turns brown in 15 seconds.
Drop batter into oil, 2 tablespoons at a time, and cook fritters until golden brown, turning once, about 1 minute per side. Drain and serve immediately.