Miss Bettie Watson's Scalloped Oysters

By Patricia B. Mitchell

Bettie Watson

A neighbor and much-admired Chatham businesswoman and equestrian, “Miss Bettie” Watson (Mrs. F. B. Watson, III), contributed this succulent recipe for use in my book My Heart's in New Orleans But My Supermarket Isn't in 1988.

For several decades, Miss Bettie had on occasion prepared the dish for choir suppers and pot-luck dinners at Watson Memorial United Methodist Church, to rave reviews. Whenever the dish appeared, those at the back of the food line could only hope to get a serving.

In early 2001, a feature article in the local press included a quotation of a wistful desire for the (lost?) recipe which had once brought so much pleasure. Miss Bettie had passed away in 1995, and without its maker the dish had also disappeared from the local scene. In the meantime, My Heart's in New Orleans … went through several revisions before going out of print in 1999. (It had mainly been available in Louisiana retail outlets and was, therefore, unseen by Miss Bettie's Virginia neighbors.)

So here is the famed recipe:

Drain one or two pints (depending upon the number of people to be served) of fresh Select-grade oysters. Grease the bottom of a deep casserole dish. Crumble up Premium Saltine Crackers and sprinkle over the bottom of the dish. Cover the cracker crumbs with a layer of oysters. Season with salt and pepper and dot with plenty of butter (not margarine). Make another layer of cracker crumbs, then oysters. Season and dot on butter. Top with cracker crumbs and more butter. Pour milk into the casserole dish up to the top of the layers of crackers and oysters. (Be sure to use enough milk because it is absorbed by the crumbs as the mixture bakes.)

Place the dish in a 350° F. oven for 50 minutes. (An oven temperature of 400° F. might be needed for the final 15 minutes if you are making the larger quantity.)