Too high on adrenaline to consider eating while we still had guests on Christmas evening, I skipped the soup course entirely, opting instead for a well-poured glass of wine. An unexpected guest had bumped me from my spot at the kids’ table to a lonely seat at the bar. Always the holiday outsider, I bustled around the kitchen, cleaning up and listening for fragments of approval from the guests.
Michele, the daughter of a family friend whom I’d babysat a couple of times, told me she usually didn’t eat oysters, but she loved the stew: “It’s like the best potato soup ever…plus oysters!” So, if you’re trying to convert a non-mollusk-lover this winter, I suggest this recipe. It’s simple but impressive; it keeps well and makes a nice gift; oh, and it’s bursting with sea-boogery goodness, and if you love oysters as much as I do, you know that’s a very nice thing.
2 T. vegetable oil
2 large yellow onions, diced
1 clove garlic, smushed into paste
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
1 1/2 qt. heavy cream
2 c. chicken stock
1 qt. shucked oysters, in their liquor
salt and pepper, to taste
parsley, chopped for garnish
In a large stock pot, sweat onions and garlic in vegetable oil until translucent. You don’t want to develop any color on the onion or garlic, so make sure you keep the heat at medium or below. Throw in the thyme and bay leaf. Add the remainder of the ingredients, including the oyster liquor, but not the oysters themselves. Allow the mixture to come to simmer for approximately an hour and a half, until the potatoes are soft. Add the oysters and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley.
If you want to avoid using chicken stock, you can substitute vegetable stock or 1 c. clam juice, 1 c. water. Another garnish idea is to use crumbled bacon or pancetta. The smoky notes will work exceptionally well with the soup’s creaminess and maritime flavor.
After the guests had gone home and D&G had shuffled off to bed, I snuck downstairs where I helped myself to a giant bowl of the stew, watching law and order on demand, and enjoying the dim glow of the tree in the next room. The quiet parts of the holidays aren’t too bad at all…
How do you feel about oysters? Do you like them fried? In a po-boy? Have you ever eaten 3 doz. raw oysters in a sitting? Because I definitely did that once at Can Can, and afterwards I felt like I was tripping for the next couple of hours until I eventually passed out. True story.
Tomorrow: Pork Roulade w/ Parsley and Pine Nuts + Beef Roast w/ Horsey Sauce