You’re either an oyster person or you’re not and I suspect that since you’ve clicked on this post, you’re an oyster lover like me. Welcome to the club. I grew up near the Chesapeake Bay and developed a natural and intrinsic need for oysters, blue crabs and Smithfield ham. As anyone who is from that region will attest, this Classic Oyster Stew is a standard for us.
The simplicity of this dish is what makes it so special — it’s little more than fresh oysters, milk and cream. Don’t worry, you don’t have to shuck a bushel of oysters to enjoy the flavors — a fresh pint from your local fishmonger will do the trick. Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the oysters, and be sure to fish out any bits of shell. Set the oysters aside.
Reserve the oyster liquid for the stew.
Saute onions and celery, then pour the oyster liquor through a fine mesh strainer (to filter out any grit) and into the pot with the vegetables.
Next comes the milk, cream and thyme. Heat until hot, but not boiling and slide in the oysters.
You don’t want to cook the oysters, just warm them through, otherwise they’ll become tough and chewy. This classic oyster stew doesn’t need further embellishment, but if you’re like me, a little garnish just makes it more inviting. I add a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning, chopped celery leaves and a sliver of butter to swirl into the stew. A little hot sauce is good too.
Oyster stew is little more than milk, cream and oysters but the flavor is beyond the sum of its parts. This makes a delicious appetizer or a light supper.
- 1 pint oysters in their liquid
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot minced
- 1 stalk celery minced (celery leaves reserved)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- sprinkle Old Bay Seasoning
- dash hot sauce I like Crystal's or Tabasco
- celery leaves chopped
- slivers butter
Set a colander over a small bowl. Add the oysters into the colander, reserving the liquor.
Set a fine mesh sieve over another small bowl and pour the oyster liquor over the sieve. This will remove any sand or grit from the liquor. Discard solids.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and celery, stirring for 2-3 minutes until vegetables are slightly softened and translucent.
Turn the heat down to medium low and add the strained oyster liquor, milk, cream and thyme. Heat slowly until broth reaches a simmer (just a few bubbles rimming the pan) Do not boil, to avoid curdling the milk. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Slip the oysters into the broth and let them simmer for 2-3 minutes, just until the edges start to curl. You want the oysters to be tender, not tough - overcooking will make them rubbery.
Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with celery leaves and/or other optional garnishes.
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