Oyster Stew

Oyster in open shell

Oyster in open shell

by Cat, Nov 2009; updated Dec 2012 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Includes: 1. Oyster Stew Memories; 2. Dad’s Oyster Stew; 3. Oyster and Shiitake Mushroom Stew

Today is Thanksgiving, and I had an early dinner with friends, at lunch time. Knowing I’d be hungry later, I bought some fresh oysters for stew.

Many people think this dish is like clam chowder, but with oysters. Those people are wrong. There’s no potatoes in oyster stew; just the rich liquor from the oysters, hot milk, butter and seasoning. If there were, it would be called oyster chowder.

Oyster stew memories

The first time I had oyster stew, it was not at home, but rather at the home of Long George and Eva Wells, neighbors to my parents’ bar and sometimes my babysitters. I was only 3 or even younger, but I remember this distinctly. We were seated at the table in Eva’s kitchen, and she set the bowls in front of us, then sat at the table. I looked down into my bowl and howled, “There’s bugs in my soup!” George thought that was very funny and repeated over and over, “There’s bugs in my soup, there’s bugs in my soup,” laughing and slapping the table, until Eva put a stop to it. She looked at me and said, “Those are oyster, Kitten, not bugs. They are really good.” I was skeptical, but I loved and trusted Eva, so I picked up an oyster in my spoon, and….. I loved it!

After my Dad heard that story from Long George, the marvelous teller of tall tales, Dad had to make some for me and was totally surprised when I ate up all that was in my bowl and asked for more.

Oyster Crackers

Oyster Crackers

When I first moved to Portland, I was introduced to Dan & Louis Oyster Bar in Old Town. Their stew is served in silver bowls, steaming hot. On the table are a big silver bowl of oyster crackers, and a variety of seasonings including season-all, celery salt, and cayenne. I still visit the Oyster Bar when I’m in Portland and I still love their oyster stew – the version made with tiny Willipa Bay oysters. (Photo, left, from cdKitchen.com (5)).

Oyster Stew (Bug Soup)

This version, that serves 2, is created from memory, from when my Dad used to make it, with a little memory help provided by What’s Cooking America: Oyster Stew (1). Amen! to her two keys to good oyster stew:

  • Don’t boil the milk;
  • Don’t overcook the oysters.

See also What’s Cooking America: Shucking Oysters (2) for how to shuck and store fresh oysters (I’ve never done this).

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 pint shucked oysters, with their liquor
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp butter, plus more for serving
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • cream, to taste (I use a “dollop”, or about 3 Tbsp)
  • Unrefined sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne powder, to taste
  • Celery salt or finely ground celery seeds, to taste (optional)
  • Paprika, to taste (optional)
  • Oyster crackers, for serving (optional)
  • Equipment:
  • strainer, optional
  • two saucepans
  • wooden spoon

Method:

  1. Drain oysters, reserving liquor. You can strain the liquor to remove sand. Cut up larger oysters.
  2. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add oysters and cook 2 – 4 minutes, until edges curl.
  3. Meanwhile, slowly heat milk, cream and oyster liquor in another saucepan; do not boil.
  4. Slowly add hot milk to oysters, stirring. Season to taste.

Assembly or Serving ideas

  • Serve in bowls with a large dot of butter and more seasonings on the side.
  • Garnish with chives or green onions
  • Accompany with oyster crackers

Oyster & Shiitake Mushroom Stew

Today is New Years Eve 2012, and this sounds so delicious, I think I’ll make it tonite for dinner – if I can get the oysters. I have dried shiitakes, which I’ll have to rehydrate.

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking.com (4).  I prefer to use homemade fish stock (instead of bottled clam juice) if I have some on hand. Or you can skip the stock/juice and use a mix of milk and cream, along with the juices from the oysters.

I’ve halved the original recipe to serve 2.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 4 oz sliced shiitake (fresh) or equivalent dried
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 pint shucked oysters, with their liquor
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp butter, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup fish stock (or bottled clam juice
  • Unrefined sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne powder, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (garish)
  • strainer, optional
  • two saucepans
  • wooden spoon

Method:

  1. If using dried shiitake, reconstitute them by soaking 30 minutes in warm liquid: warm the fish stock to a simmer then off heat and add mushrooms. Drain after 30 minutes, reserving the stock.
  2. Drain oysters, reserving liquor. You can strain the liquor to remove sand. Cut up larger oysters.
  3. Chop the onion finely.
  4. Slowly heat cream, fish stock, and oyster liquor in saucepan; do not boil. Keep warm.
  5. Meanwhile, melt butter in another saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion; season and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are wilted and onion is softened, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add more butter if needed, add oysters, and cook 2 – 4 minutes, until edges curl.
  7. Slowly add hot cream mixture to oysters, stirring. Season to taste, and garnish individual servings with thyme.

References:

  1. What’s Cooking America, Oyster Stew recipe: whatscookingamerica.net/Soup/OysterStew.htm
  2. What’s Cooking America, Shucking Oysters recipe: whatscookingamerica.net/Seafood/ShuckingOysters.htm
  3. Oyster Selection & Storage: homecooking.about.com/od/foodstorage/a/oysterstorage.htm
  4. Fine Cooking.com, Creamy Oyster Shiitake Stew recipe: finecooking.com/recipes/creamy-oyster-shiitake-stew.aspx
  5. CdKitchen.com image (cdn.cdkitchen.com/images/cats/1750/cat-1750-490-1.jpg) and recipe: cdkitchen.com/recipes/course/appetizers-snacks/oyster-crackers

 

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