Oyster Stew recipes come in all servings, sizes and textures. Here are a series that show off the bivalves to their best advantage.
Oyster Stew for One
“In Texas, oyster stew is a bowl of oysters with a little milk, not a bowl of milk with a couple of oysters.”
So says Texas food writer Robb Walsh in “Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook, with More Than 200 Recipes” (10 Speed Press, $25). Perhaps that’s why his version includes a pint of the briny bivalves into a single serving.
1 pint shucked oysters and their liquor
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus 1 pat
Tabasco sauce, for serving
Soda crackers, for serving
Pour the oysters and their liquor and the water into a small pot. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Place over medium heat and bring almost to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the edges of the oysters curl. Add the milk and heat until steaming hot. Do not allow to boil. Stir in the 2 tablespoons butter.
Pour the stew into a soup bowl and top with the butter pat. Enjoy piping hot. Season with Tabasco. As you eat the stew, crumble soda crackers into the bowl.
Makes 1 serving.
From “Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook, with More Than 200 Recipes” by Robb Walsh
Traditional Oyster Stew
“The most important factors in preparing Oyster Stew are do not boil the milk and do not overcook the oysters,” according to whatscookingamerica.net. Be careful to avoid overcooking oysters, which causes them to become tough.
2 pints (about 32 ounces) small to medium-sized raw shucked oysters with their liquor (see note)
4 tablespoons butter, plus more for garnish
3 cups milk (a little added heavy cream can be added to make it richer)
1 or 2 dashes Tabasco
Salt, to taste
Pepper to taste
Minced parsley, sliced chives or sliced green onions (for garnish)
Note: The amount of oysters used may be varied according to your taste.
Drain the oysters, reserving their liquor. (I like to strain the oyster liquor with a fine strainer to remove any sand.)
In a large pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add oysters and simmer very gently for about 2 to 4 minutes or until the edges of the oysters curl.
While the oysters are simmering, in a separate saucepan over low heat, slowly heat the milk, cream, and oyster liquor (do not boil).
When the oysters are cooked, slowly add the hot milk mixture to the oysters, stirring gently. Season with Tabasco, salt and pepper.
Remove from heat. Serve in warm soup bowls and garnish each bowl with parsley, chives, or green onions and a generous pat of butter.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Oyster Stew for 50
Sometimes you just need enough to feed a crowd, assuming, that is, you have a pot large enough to hold three gallons of ingredients. This simple recipe comes from “Temptations,” the cookbook from the Junior League of Lansing, Michigan.
2 gallons milk
2 ounces salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 gallon oysters, shucked, with liquid
1 cup butter
Paprika, for garnish
Scald milk, but do not boil.
In a saucepan, add salt and pepper to oysters, cook over low heat until the edges of oysters begin to curl.
Pour scalded milk over oysters and add butter. Sprinkle top with paprika and serve immediately to avoid curdling.
Notes: Care should be taken not to overcook oysters as they will get tough if heated too long. Quantity makes this ideal to serve at a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party. The recipe is from Jim’s Tiffany, Lansing, Michigan.
Makes 50 (6-ounce) servings.
From “Temptations: Junior League of Lansing”
Oyster Stew with Potato
Mention the word “stew” or “soup,” and some cooks automatically get out the potatoes. So, it should come as no surprise that a few have even added them to oyster stew.
Cookbook author Morton G. Clark would have you believe that this is a common factor in oyster stews across Texas. In his 1970 “The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cookbook,” he writes, “Oyster stew, in Texas, as with similar shrimp dishes, often has potatoes in it, thus being somewhat like a chowder. But as it is also highly spiced and has a quantity of green onions in it, along with celery leaves, it has a Creole taste. This combination, it seems to me is very Texas.”
Yet I could not find another recipe for oyster stew with potatoes in it, despite looking in more than four dozen other cookbooks from Texas and beyond. Still, it would thicken the base, making it less watery for some, and the odd inclusion of pickling spices in the seasoning helped this recipe stand out.
1 rib celery, diced; leaves, minced
6 green onions with part of tops, sliced
4 large white potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium-size white onions, chopped
2 tablespoons mixed pickling spices in a cheesecloth bag
4 cups water
1/4 pound butter
1 quart whole milk or half-and-half
2 quarts oysters and their liquor
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
In a heavy pot, combine vegetables with spices and water. Cover and simmer until all are very tender. Drain, reserving the liquid. Discard spices. Puree vegetables through a sieve. combine with reserved cooking water, butter and milk. Heat until butter has melted. Blend. Add oysters and their liquor. Cook gently until their edges ruffle and the oysters are plump. Season with Worcestershire sauce, salt and cayenne to taste. Serve immediately.
Makes 12 to 16 servings.
From “The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cookbook” by Morton G. Clark
Peanut and Oyster Stew
Peanuts and oysters together? Well, they both have shells, right? Bad joke aside, this soup features a classic combination that dates back to the 1840s if not before. Matt Lee and Ted Lee provide a little background — and a little updating — in “The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen.” Here is the story in their words:
“The lovely notion of combining oysters with nutty flavors has been a steady current through Charleston cookbooks, a relatively recent example being the oyster and benne (sesame) soup in “Charleston Receipts.” One of the earlier examples, however, appeared in Sarah Rutledge’s 1847 “The Carolina Housewife,” in a recipe for ‘Ground-Nut Soup,” where the oysters played second fiddle to the groundnuts — the peanuts:
“To half a pint shelled ground-nuts, well beaten up, add two spoonsful of flour, and mix well. Put to them a pint of oysters, and a pint and a half of water. While boiling, throw on a seed-pepper or two, if small.
“We adore the simplicity and efficiency of her recipe and language: it plays out so plainly in the mind that you can almost see the stoneware bowl and apron strings. And yet it’s difficult to make the flavors sing, following the recipe as written. We began with her basic formula, but introduced a few ingredients that embolden the flavors while keeping the peanuts and the oysters — both — at top billing. We wrestled with he idea of adding other ingredients (like paprika, sherry, lemon peel) to jazz up the soup, but in the end decided that the minimalist approach suits the spirit of the peanut-oyster combination best.”
1 cup roasted unsalted skinned peanuts
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup very finely chopped celery (about 2 smaller ribs)
4 tablespoons minced, seeded jalapeños (about 2 small)
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups fish or shellfish broth
1 cup dry white wine
1 pint shucked oysters and their liquor (about 24 to 32 oysters), separated
Freshly ground black pepper
2 finely sliced scallions (white and green parts)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Process the peanuts in a food processor to coarse crumbs and reserve.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the bubbles subside, add the celery, jalapeño, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is evenly incorporated. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it looks like it is drying out. Add the peanuts, stirring for a minute, then add the broth, wine, 1 cup of water and the oyster liquor. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer covered, stirring occasionally until the soup has reduced by about a third, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Turn off the heat and add the oysters, stirring gently twice, and allow to sit for a minute. Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with the sliced scallions and a lemon wedge, and including a few oysters in every portion.
Makes 6 servings.
From “The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee