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Serving fresh oysters

Fresh oysters can present some challenges. To begin with, they are the trickiest shellfish to open, so it pays to get advice from an expert if you don't already know a good method. Most good cookbooks provide instructions and sometimes illustrations.

If you want to avoid opening them altogether, you can bake or grill them until they open, then serve melted butter for dipping.

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For an appetizer, six oysters is a good serving size; for an entree, 15 oysters, or 1/2 to 3/4 cup, should be shucked per person.

A number of famous dishes are made with oysters, from the Oysters Rockefeller of Antoine's in New Orleans to the Oyster Stew of New York City's famous Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station.

But there are many simple recipes, too. Oysters can also be batter-fried, stuffed and baked, broiled, or used in soups, stews, and poultry stuffing.

Live oysters may be covered with a damp cloth and refrigerated 24 hours or longer, depending on their freshness.

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