Oyster Stew Recipe - Thick and Rich!
Do you love oysters? If you’re an oyster aficionado, you might think the best oysters in the world come from the Chesapeake Bay. Not so, according to famous American chefs. Many top chefs at restaurants in New Orleans, Charleston, and even some in Maryland actually prefer the flavor of Apalachicola oysters over their more famous cousins. Why? The Apalachicola oysters are slightly sweet, slightly salty, dense, and meaty. They have a delicate flavor and firm flesh. They’re also reputed to hold their flavor well after being cooked. I can’t really vouch for that – I’ve never eaten them raw, so it would be unfair for me to compare the before-and-after cooking taste. I can tell you that I’ve eaten a lot of oysters from a variety of locales, and the Apalach oysters are definitely the best! Some of the Apalachicola oysters are huge! Lots of folks like the big, juicy ones, but I prefer the smaller ones. That’s why I always purchase standards rather than selects for cooking. I like them fried, steamed, and roasted, and hubby likes them prepared all these ways. He also likes them raw and in oyster stew. You don’t need a recipe for raw oysters, but I will share my oyster stew recipe with you.
Fresh oysters are definitely the best to use for 99% of all oyster recipes. I have, on occasion, used the canned smoked oysters for party dips and spreads – with good results. For the best oyster stew, however, you’ll need fresh oysters, and the fresher the better. The refrigerated shucked oysters you find in the small cups at seafood markets are fine to use, and when you buy them, you won’t have to go to the trouble of shucking oysters, which isn’t an easy or quick task. The only problem with buying already shucked oysters is that you can never be totally sure when they were shucked and packaged.
If you shuck the oysters yourself, you’ll know they’re truly fresh. Fresh oysters have a unique taste that seems to fade quickly after the flesh has been removed from the shell. When they’re super fresh, you get a taste of the ocean. It’s hard to put into words, but if you’ve ever experienced the flavor, you know what I’m talking about.
Shucking oysters isn’t easy, but it gets easier with practice. If you decide to use fresh oysters for your oyster stew, be careful when buying the bivalves. You want live oysters – not ones that have already died. How do you know which is which? Examine the shells. With live oysters, the shells will be closed tightly. If you see one that’s open, give it a quick tap. If the creature is still alive, the shell should close quickly. An oyster should feel heavy for its size, too.
To shuck oysters, you’ll need a heavy glove and a tool for prying open the shells. Some people prefer using a special oyster knife, but my hubby prefers using a screwdriver. So…how to shuck oysters? Different oyster shuckers have their own unique styles, and with some practice, you’ll develop your, too. Some people stick the knife or screwdriver directly into the hinge, but the old man sticks the point right next to the hinge. He uses a stick-and-twist motion to pry apart the shells. I think seeing the process will be more helpful, so I’ve included the following video, “How to Shuck Oysters.”
How to Shuck an Oyster:
Oyster Stew Recipe
While you’re shucking your oysters, be sure to save the liquid! You’ll need it for the oyster stew. If you don’t wash the shells before shucking, the liquid can get pretty nasty. We scrub the fresh oysters with a brush first. Even so, you can get some debris in the liquid, so you’ll probably want to strain it before using it in my oyster stew recipe.
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- 6 slices bacon
- 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
- 1/4 cup chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 pint standard Apalachicola oysters, with liquid
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- salt, to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- cayenne, to taste
- Fry bacon, remove from skillet, and drain on paper towels. When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble and set aside.
- Drain away all the bacon fat from the skillet except for one tablespoon.
- Over medium heat, sauté the onions and celery until just tender. Add fresh parsley and cook for one minute. Add oysters, without liquid. Cook just until the edges of the oysters begin to curl. Remove pan from heat.
- In a soup pot, heat milk, cream, butter, and liquid from the oysters. Do not boil!
- Add all the ingredients from the skillet, including the bacon drippings, to the milk mixture.
- Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
- Simmer for fifteen minutes, or until piping hot. Serve oyster stew with oyster crackers, saltines, or buttered and toasted French bread.
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