Winter is oyster time, and this recipe for a Southern-style oyster stew is a simple, brothy, creamy soup that highlights fresh oysters. Oyster stew is a tradition both in the South and, surprisingly, the Midwest.
The best oyster stew is made from fresh oysters, in the shell. Use them if you can, and you should be able to get them, because winter is oyster season everywhere. The whole only eating oysters in a month with an “R” is partially true; they are fattest (and safest) then.
If you can’t or don’t want to deal with whole oysters, you can still make oyster stew with shucked oysters.
I got a bunch of oysters from my friends over at Admiral Shellfish Company in Alabama, who raise oysters in an area that can get incredibly saline, which makes for a saltier, tastier oyster. There had been a drought there lately, so the oysters were especially nice.
They’re little, and I had to eat a few on the halfshell. But I’ll be honest: I don’t love shucking oysters, especially for oyster stew, where you need lots of them. There are alternate methods, however.
Shuck Oysters Easily
Shucking oysters is an art, one some people are very good at. I am not. I’m better at shucking clams, which is what I grew up with. So I use either heat or cold to do the work for me.
The cold method is as simple as freezing the whole oysters, then thawing them in a bowl in the fridge. They will die in the freezer, and partially open. Shucking them once they’ve thawed overnight is easy. You can wait up to two, maybe three days before cooking these oysters.
The heat method is basically baking your oysters. Preheat the oven to 400°F and set the oysters, deep side down, on a rack set over a baking sheet. Most types of oysters have a thin, flat side, the top, and a deeper cup side, the bottom.
Heat the oysters until most have opened, which should only take maybe 10 minutes tops. Keep an eye on them.
In this case, you will want to add the oysters to your oyster stew in the last 5 minutes or so, since they’ll be mostly cooked already.
Strain the Liquor for Oyster Stew
Regardless of whether you use pre-shucked oysters, which come in their liquor, or if you shuck them yourself or use one of the easier methods above, you will want to catch all the juice that comes out of them.
Alas, grit happens. The shells are brittle, they can be dirty, etc. I highly recommend that you strain your oyster liquor through a strainer that has a paper towel set inside. Strain into a clean bowl.
This oyster liquor is the essence of oyster stew.
Oyster Stew Not a Stew
Yes, that’s right: Technically speaking, oyster stew is a soup, not a stew, in that the broth really is the star. Thus all the effort to getting that liquor.
In a pinch, you can use store-bought clam juice or homemade fish stock instead of oyster liquor, but your oyster stew will not be as good.
The rest is crazy easy: Onions, butter, an herb, cream, black or white pepper. That’s it in a traditional oyster stew.
It bears some resemblence to my family’s clam chowder, except that this is even lighter, with no potato or pork product. You could, if you want, use bacon and bacon fat instead of butter, and add peeled, diced potatoes to your oyster stew, but that’s not what I do.
I have seen Charleston versions of this stew with rice grits cooked long, which thickens the stew a little like a classic Massachusetts chowder.
So if you want your oyster stew thicker, you can add maybe 1/2 cup of rice grits (or reduce regular rice to grits in a spice grinder) in with the onions, and let them stew in the oyster liquor until soft — don’t add the oysters themselves until the end though.
Serving and Storing
Oyster stew comes together quickly, and is best made and then eaten. You can reheat leftovers very gently on the stove, but it just won’t be quite as nice.
I do not recommend freezing it, as the cream gets all weird, and the oysters’ texture suffers.
Generally speaking, oyster stew is served as a first course in a larger meal, usually Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. It’s a light opener to many more dishes.
If you are serving oyster stew solo, as a meal, I’d add lots of oyster crackers and/or bread.
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Preheat the oven to 400°F. Set the oysters on a cooling rack set on a baking sheet. Heat the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Roast the oysters and cook the onions in the butter slowly. It important to cook the onions slowly and gently so they soften fully, but do not brown. You might want to cover the pot and cook them on low heat while you shuck the oysters.
If you are using pre-shucked oysters, or you just shuck raw oysters normally, just make sure the onions cook slow and at least 10 minutes, up to 20. Slow and low is the key here. Salt them as they cook.
While this is happening, strain the oyster liquor through a sieve with a paper towel set inside. Save this liquor, as it’s the essence of the stew.
When the oysters and onions are ready, add the oysters and the liquor and the cream to the pot. You might need maybe a cup or two of water to fill things out, or you can add in extra oyster liquor, clam juice or fish stock here.
Season the stew with the pepper and the crab boil or a pinch of cayenne. Let this simmer 5 minutes, then stir in the chives and serve. Oyster crackers are a traditional garnish, and I highly recommend them if this is your main meal.
I love what the liquid crab boil brings to this stew, but it’s not easy to find outside the South. Use a pinch of cayenne or Cajun seasoning instead if you can’t get it.
Calories: 133kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 38mg | Sodium: 9mg | Potassium: 92mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 540IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 0.3mg
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Source link: https://honest-food.net/oyster-stew-recipe/ by Hank Shaw at honest-food.net