When I told my friend Becca that I had made oyster stew, she looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and asked, "Well, did you like it?"
As I nodded yes, she added laughing, "It's a lot better than you would think, isn't it?"
Becca is from Biloxi, Mississippi and is well acquainted with this Southern stew. It's normally eaten around Christmas, but I thought it might make a good Lenten dish.
Those of you acquainted with oyster stew, know how good it is. Those of you who aren't, you might sort of cringe at the very idea, like I did the first time I heard of it. You'll just have to take my word for it.
It's beyond good. It's lick-the-plate-of-every-last-drop good.
Even if you are not a big fan of raw oysters, but you like shellfish like clams or scallops, you'll be fine with this stew. It reminds me a lot of a really good cream of mushroom soup, but with oysters instead of mushrooms.
Fresh or Jarred Oysters?
About the oysters. You can use freshly shucked, if you have access to them. Though, you'll need quite a few for this stew. We used jarred oysters that we found in the refrigerated seafood section of our local grocery store (Raley's).
I've since seen them in practically every grocery store I've been to in my area. So, I assume the jarred oysters are not that hard to find. And they'll likely be much more cost effective than freshly shucked.
Choosing Oysters for This Recipe
Fresh unshucked oysters can be expensive in some parts of the country. Below are good options for some of us landlocked folks.
- We recommend jarred shucked oysters for ease and economy in this recipe. It's easy to find jarred oysters in the refrigerated section near the seafood counter at your local grocery store. Make sure you save the liquid the oysters are jarred in.
- You can also find canned oysters. They will be less flavorful, but can still work in this recipe. Buy the plain canned oysters, not the smoked kind, unless you want that added smoky flavor.
- Shucked oysters are also sold in the freezer sections of some grocery stores (especially Asian ones). However, you'll lose that wonderful briny flavor you'll want in this soup.
- If you're able to get great fresh oysters, here's a Guide to Shucking Oysters at Home.
What to Serve with Oyster Stew
- Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
- Cheese Biscuits
- Spinach Salad with Roasted Grapes and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
- French Green Beans with Butter and Herbs
- Hummingbird Cake
You may or may not need to add salt to this stew, depending on how briny your oysters are.
If you use freshly shucked oysters, be sure to save the juice (or "liquor") that comes out of the shells. You need it for the stew.
If you want to vary things, add a splash of brandy, Madeira or white wine, and play around with the herbs. Mint, dill, or fennel fronds are all good alternatives.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pint oysters with their liquor, jarred or freshly shucked, about 2 dozen
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 ribs celery, minced
1 medium yellow or white onion, minced
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup cream (can use all milk if you want)
Splash Tabasco, Crystal, or other hot sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
Strain and reserve the oyster juice:
Strain the oyster juice through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl to remove any grit. Reserve the juices.
Rinse the oysters well, under cold water. Put them in a bowl.
Make a roux:
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the mixture for a few minutes, stirring often.
Add the celery and onions:
When the roux turns the color of coffee-with-cream, stir in the celery and onions. Increase the heat to medium and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the oyster juices, milk, cream, and hot sauce:
Add the oyster juice and any juices the oysters have released into the bowl. The flour in the roux will absorb the liquid and turn into a paste. Slowly add the milk and cream (if using), stirring to incorporate as you pour. Add a healthy splash or two of hot sauce, to taste.
Heat the soup until steamy:
Heat the soup to steamy, but below a simmer, over low heat. Cook for 15 minutes. (Do not let the soup boil!)
Add the oysters:
If you are working with large oysters, you may want to chop them into bite-sized pieces. Add the oysters and cook for another 2 minutes, or until the edges of the oysters just begin to curl.
If you want the stew to be more like a smooth soup, purée until smooth.
Season, garnish and serve:
Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Dole out into individual soup bowls. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley to serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 19g||25%|
|Saturated Fat 10g||51%|
|Total Carbohydrate 20g||7%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 22mg||108%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|