Monday, January 11, 2010
Do you ever make a recipe just for you, knowing completely well that the rest of your family probably wouldn't touch it? I don't do it very often, but that's exactly what I did on Saturday. I grew up eating my grandma's oyster stew every Christmas. I think that I've mentioned before that my family's tradition at Christmas isn't turkey or ham, but rather shrimp cocktail, lobster tails, crab legs, clam strips, and oysters. A seafood feast. And this year I missed the seafood feast. We just had too many family Christmas celebrations and this one conflicted with another one. Since this is my favorite holiday meal, I was a little bummed. As a consolation, my grandma saved some oysters back just for me. See...they have my name on them.
From the minute that I got my hands on those oysters, I've been craving oyster stew. On Saturday, while my daughter's birthday cupcakes were cooling, I gathered up some veggies and started chopping. This is half of a large sweet onion, a couple stalks of celery, a shallot, and a few cloves of garlic.
I heated up half a stick of butter in a soup pot and then tossed in those veggies to saute.
Once the veggies were tender I stirred in a couple tablespoons of flour, some salt, and black and cayenne pepper. I think I used 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of each kind of pepper. The amount of heat was perfect for me, but some people might consider this too spicy. Cook and stir the sauteed veggie mixture for a few more minutes and then...
gradually whisk in 2 cups of milk and the liquid from the oysters. I think I ended up with about 3/4 cup of oyster "juice" after draining my oysters. Heat the soup to a low boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes.
Now for the most important ingredient, and the reason that I didn't have to share this soup with another person in my house: the oysters. Most people in my family don't care for oysters, but I've even been known to toss a few back right off the half shell and wash em' down with a swig of beer. I'm classy like that.
These puppies were big, so I chopped em' up a little so that I'd get a bit of oyster in almost every bite of soup. I also cleaned out the green stuff that the oysters had in their umm...well uh...I think that's the stomach. At least I'm going to call it the stomach for my purposes. Because if that green stuff isn't the stomach, then it's probably either waste or gonads. So at the worst, in my mind, that green stuff is just the seaweed that the oysters snacked on before being snagged by a lucky fisherman. Have I turned you off on oysters yet? I'm not squeamish, but I don't like to think about that too much. Some people eat the green stuff. I don't.
Okay, moving on (because I can't stand to think about the green stuff for another second)...I added the oysters to the simmering stew and cooked them for 4-5 minutes until they were opaque. Then, I tossed in a handful of chopped fresh parsley and another tablespoon of butter.
I dished mine up and topped it with some mini saltine crackers (less expensive than oyster crackers and totally yummy with the soup).
I decided to eat a little earlier than the rest of the family. My husband was out. My daughters were happily playing in the toy room with a friend. Their dinner (Hamburger Helper) simmered on the stovetop. I decided to steal a moment for myself. I ladled up a bowl of the soup, turned the television to a music channel (I think that I settled on Hits of the 90's. Gets me all nostalgic from my high school and college years) and sat down in my empty kitchen and watched the snow fall outside as I savored each...
and every bite!
A few moments of the day that were just completely mine. Sometimes I forget what that feels like. It was nice.
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) plus 1 tablespoons butter
half of a large sweet onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
salt, to taste
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups milk
1 pint oysters, shucked and drained (reserve the liquid)
1/4 cup chopped finely chopped parsley
In a large saute pan, melt the 4 tablespoons butter. Add the onions, celery, shallot, and garlic. Cook until tender. Stir in the flour, salt, and peppers. Cook for a couple more minutes. Whisk in the milk and oyster liquid. Bring the liquid up to a low boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the oysters. Bring the liquid back up to a simmer and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the oysters are opaque. Stir in the parsley and remaining tablespoon of butter. Remove from the heat. Taste before serving and salt as needed.
Serve with oyster crackers or Saltines.
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