Monday, November 23, 2009

Creamy Oyster Stew

A roux based stew of oysters in a cream sauce, is finished with a drizzle of hot sauce and garnished with broken saltine crackers and green onion.
A roux based stew of oysters in a cream sauce, is finished with a drizzle of hot sauce and garnished with broken saltine crackers and green onion.

Creamy Oyster Stew

It used to be said - and lots of folks still live true to it today - that you should only eat oysters in months that contain the letter "R" in them, that being early spring, but mostly in fall and winter.

It's really an old fallback to the days when refrigeration and spoilage were an issue, but there is a bit of truth there in that those "R" months just happen to be when Gulf oysters are at their peak flavor. These days oysters are also farmed, so you can pretty much get good oysters year-round all over the country. Well old folks tale or not, lucky us that we are in an "R" month because down here in the Deep Coastal South, we love our fresh Gulf oysters and they show themselves in many of our holiday dishes, one of them being oyster stew.

My Mama made oyster stew for Daddy all the time, and I can hardly make it without thinking of him. My Daddy was 58 when he passed - so young. I'm so sad that he didn't have a little more time in this world. Anyway...

Made basically of whole milk, and plenty of pure butter, or bacon drippings if you prefer, or heck, even a combo of the two, and, of course, fresh Gulf oysters. It was one recipe that I never watched Mama make, so when my brother asked me if I had a recipe for it, I had to set out to try to make one of my own. Mama's was more on the thin side, so I decided to incorporate a roux to make mine thicker and more "stew-like." Oh boy did it work out! This turned out so creamy, and rich and just downright decadent. But so simple and delicious.

I finished it with a drizzle of a combination of Tiger Sauce and Louisiana hot sauce, crumbled saltines, piled right in the middle, and some freshly sliced green onion sprinkled on top. It was a perfect accent to the stew. If you have some crumbled bacon to top it with, even better.

Here's how to make it.

This is a cream based stew, so it is important to keep it at a slow simmer throughout this entire process and to avoid allowing it to boil. I use whole milk and half and half, or heavy cream if I have it. Slowly warm the milk and cream or half and half in your microwave or a saucepan. In a separate saucepan over a medium to medium high heat, melt the butter or bacon fat and begin working in the flour a tablespoon at a time to make a roux.

Once all of the flour has been incorporated, let it bubble and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the chopped yellow onion to the roux and let those cook until softened.

Add the Cajun seasoning and garlic salt; stir in. I used my favorite brand of Cajun seasoning, Slap Ya Mama {affil link} and chose the white pepper blend, but use white or black pepper, or whatever you prefer. Reduce the heat to medium and begin to slowly add the warmed milk and cream combo to the roux, about one cup at a time...

...until all of the liquid is incorporated, and stirring constantly. Get it to a bubble, but keep control of the heat and don't let it boil.  Drain the oysters, reserving the liquid; set aside the oysters and pour the oyster liquor into the roux mixture.

Add the green onion and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the oysters to the stew, stir in and cook until the edges of the oysters begin to curl and the oysters are cooked through, just a few minutes. These oysters were just the right size to use whole, but if you run across some that are larger, you might want to take some kitchen shears to them and chop them up a bit.

To serve, drizzle the top with hot sauce, sprinkle crumbled saltines on top and garnish with sliced green onion.

This stew would be an excellent addition as a soup course for the Thanksgiving or Christmas table. Here's how to make it.

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Recipe: Creamy Oyster Stew

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 15 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1-1/2 cups of half and half or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of bacon drippings, butter or a combination
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup of finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper or Cajun seasoning (white pepper blend), like Slap Ya Mama {affil link} or to taste, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
  • 1 pint of oysters, reserving the liquid, and rough chopped, if large
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • Tiger sauce {affil link}and hot sauce, for garnish, optional
  • Crushed saltines, for garnish
  • Fresh sliced green onion, for garnish

Heat the milk and half and half or cream in the microwave, or in a medium sized saucepan over a low simmer. You want to slowly warm the mixture so take care not to allow it to boil. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, melt the fat over medium to medium high heat and start a roux by stirring in the flour, one tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened. Stir in the Cajun seasoning and garlic salt. Reduce heat to just under medium.

Slowly begin to add the warmed milk blend to the roux, a little at at a time, and stirring constantly until all of the milk has been incorporated. Simmer but do not allow to boil. Drain the oysters, reserving the liquid; set the oysters aside, and stir in the oyster liquor, bringing it up to a bubble. Add the green onion, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the oysters and simmer until the edges of the oysters begin to curl and the oysters are cooked through. Plate in a nice soup bowl, and drizzle each serving with a bit of hot sauce - I like the combination of Tiger Sauce and Louisiana hot sauce. Crumble a couple of saltines in the center of each bowl and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh sliced green onion. Also very good spooned over homemade mashed potatoes.

Cook's Notes: Try to choose oysters that are on the smaller size for stew to keep them whole. If you run across some that are larger, take some kitchen shears to rough chop them up a bit.

Crab Stew: Omit the oysters and substitute a pound of lump crab, picking through for shell.

Oysters and Artichoke Stew: Add two cans artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and rough chopped, with the onion.


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Posted by on November 23, 2009

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