1. Lift the oysters out of their liquid, checking for bits of shell and sand. Pass the liquid through a fine strainer to remove any sand. Chill the oysters and liquid separately.
2. In a 3 to 4-quart saucepan melt the butter over medium heat, stir in the shallots and saute until shallots are softened and clear. Blend in garlic, a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cook 30 seconds. Stir in the milk, cream, oyster liquid and Tabasco. Bring them to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes at a gentle bubble, take care that they don’t boil over, keep them at a simmer.
3. Turn the heat down so the liquid barely bubbles, blend in the oysters and cook them for just a minute or until their edges begin to curl, you want them very tender. Serve the stew right away with oyster crackers. Some people like to swirl extra slivers of butter into each serving.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.