02 March 2010

Tasty Creative Oyster Stew Recipes

From Denny: Do you love oysters like we do in south Louisiana? Do you prefer them raw on the half shell to slirp or broiled with lots of garlic and breadcrumbs or fried in an oyster poboy sandwich?

Nothing is more satisfying in cold weather than a tummy warming soup or stew. Remember to keep your spices toned down in order to retain the oyster's delicate and fresh mineral taste. Spices to recommend? Celery salt, a favorite sea salt, cayenne pepper, sweet paprika and Lea and Perrins brand Worcestershire sauce - and green peppercorns are a personal favorite to give a little bite when I don't want a hot taste.

The rule of when it's safe to dine on oysters is to have them in all the "R" months and avoid them otherwise. Part of the idea is to allow the mollusks time to spawn in the warmer weather waters at 70 degrees F. and above. The other admonition is to avoid bacteria.

Commercial farms like here in the Louisiana oyster beds make it possible to dine on oysters all year long if you like. They have perfected a brief pasteurization method that kills off the harmful bacteria. I prefer to stick to the colder months for oysters as that is peak season and they just taste better. Of course, I have been known to break that habit when I've visited the New Orleans Acme Oyster Bar in the French Quarter. They have recently expanded and placed one right here in my backyard of Baton Rouge. I am so in trouble.

Recipes and Photos from Laura McCandlish @ NPR

Traditional Oyster Stew

From Laura: I prefer to saute oysters in butter first, until they curl. Some recipes say to scald the milk in a double-broiler so it doesn't scorch. I don't bother, just warming the milk cautiously instead, in a thick-bottomed pan.

For a heavier soup, use less milk and more cream. Consider garnishing the soup with chopped parsley or chives. This is my imperfect ode to the stew I had at Mamma Zu, a restaurant in Richmond, Virginia.

Makes: 8 servings as a soup course, or 4 as a main dish


1 pint shucked extra-small oysters, liquor reserved

1/2 cup heavy cream

1-1/2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Celery salt, to taste

2 ounces sliced pancetta

1-1/2 teaspoons ground chipotle pepper (or crushed red pepper)

Salt and pepper, to taste


In a large saucepan, bring the reserved oyster liquor to a boil and skim off the foam. Add cream, milk, butter and celery salt to taste and gently simmer.

At the same time, fry pancetta until grease coats the saute pan. Add the crushed pepper and drained oysters, sizzling them until just curled, being careful not to overcook. Add the oysters to hot broth, removing the pancetta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup and at least two oysters into each bowl. Serve immediately, with oyster crackers or crusty bread.

Mexican Oyster Stew

From Laura: This piquant tortilla soup is inspired by my dad's recipe, where raw oysters are covered in butter-soaked breadcrumbs and salsa, then baked with cheese. The oysters stand up to the mild chilies and mellow ancho pepper, softened by the cheddar cheese and cream. The splash of tequila and squeeze of lime provides just the right zing.

Makes: 4 servings as a soup course, or 2 as a main dish


1 dried ancho chili pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with their juice (I use Muir Glen with green chilies)

4-ounce can diced mild green chilies

2 cups of stock (I use a chicken-beef broth combination)

1 tablespoon crushed dried ancho chili pepper (or regular red pepper), or 1 teaspoon ground ancho

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

1 ounce silver tequila

2 small soft corn tortillas

1/2 cup frozen or canned sweet corn kernels

1/2 pint (8 ounces) petite oysters, strained (reserve liquor)

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 lime, quartered

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 scallions, chopped, separating white and green parts

4 sprigs cilantro, stems removed and chopped


Place dried ancho chili in a hot skillet and toast until blistered and aromatic, about 1 minute per side. Grind the toasted pepper, including the seeds, in a spice grinder or food processor, or crush vigorously with a mortar and pestle.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a soup pot or large, heavy saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, green chilies, stock, crushed ancho chili and oregano. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce to a simmer, add tequila and crumble in corn tortillas. Continue to simmer about 20 minutes, stirring, until tortillas are incorporated into the soup. Add corn kernels.

Melt remaining tablespoon butter in a separate fry pan. Add white parts of scallions and strained oysters, sauteing until they curl. At the same time, stir shredded cheese and heavy cream into soup. Add reserved liquor (optional) for extra oyster flavor. Stir in the oysters and pan juices. Spritz with half the lime. Cut the two remaining lime quarters into 4 wedges.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls to serve, divvying up the oysters evenly. Garnish with chopped green scallion parts, cilantro and lime.

*** ALSO from Laura McCandish, 2 more oyster stew recipes:

Japanese Oyster Stew With Daikon And Enoki Mushrooms -
Oyster, Artichoke And Spinach Stew

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