Friday, March 16, 2007

Northwest Oyster Stew

Oysters can be eaten half shelled, raw, smoked, boiled, baked, fried, roasted, stewed, canned, pickled, steamed, broiled (grilled) or used in a variety of drinks. Preparation can be as simple as opening the shell, while cooking can be as spare as adding butter and/or salt, or can be very elaborate.

Oyster Stew is a very simple dish to make, and in it's traditional form consisted of oysters, a little butter, salt, and pepper added to scalding milk. Our recipe is almost as simple, but we liven it up a little bit to make it interesting. It is truly more of a soup, than a stew since little cooking time, and no braising are involved.

It is traditionally served during the Winter months, especially during the holidays in the Midwest. Oysters were once shipped in by rail, in bushell baskets, on ice, and were an expensive luxury enjoyed during that time of year. Obviously the cold Winter temperatures aided in their shipment before the advent of refrigeration.

Oyster Stew

2 tablespoons butter
4 strips of diced bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 dozen small Pacific Oysters, shucked, with their liquor
1 cup dry sherry
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

In a large heavy saucepan, brown the bacon and set aside, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the celery, bell pepper, and onion; sauté until softened but not browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bacon, Worcestershire, Tabasco, Old Bay, Oysters with their liquor, sherry, and heavy cream. Serve with some oyster crackers, or sourdough bread.

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