Oysters, along with clams and lobsters, have been harvested and relished by Native Americans along the Atlantic coast from very early times. When the English colonists arrived on the shores of North America, they recognized the richness of the sea in the abundance of the excellent, large oysters. It’s thought that the Indians taught the settlers how to tong or secure the bivalves with leather, and to dry them for winter food. Oysters were the most popular seafood along the Eastern seaboard during the nineteenth century, with oyster saloons serving raw and roasted oysters. Timeworn cookbooks have recipes for oyster stew, oyster soup, oyster pie, and oyster stuffing. For oyster lovers like me, this oyster stew is irresistible.–Diane Morgan
LC Make Ahead—Or Not? Note
We know, we know. Nothing makes a holiday dinner lovelier than the ability to make some of the menu ahead of time. But with such a straightforward stew, it’s best to leave it to the last minute. In the words of the author, “Although it can be gently reheated successfully, oyster stew is best when made right before serving. Have everything measured and ready to cook—the stew is super simple to put together.”
- 1 pint (about 30) extra-small shucked oysters in their liquor
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Drain the oysters through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a small bowl to catch the oyster liquor. Set the oysters aside. Reserve the liquor.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and celery salt. Add the oysters and bring to a simmer. Cook just until the edges of the oysters curl.
- Add the oyster liquor to the pan and return to a simmer. Add the milk, cream, and nutmeg and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, but do not let the oyster stew boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Ladle the oyster stew into a warmed tureen or individual bowls, garnish with the parsley, and serve hot.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a very simple recipe to prepare and, the best part is, it can be served as a starter for an elegant dinner party. The dish has only a limited number of ingredients, which makes for easy and quick preparation. By having all the ingredients out in front of you at the onset, this dish is literally put together in a matter of minutes. The coloring imparted from the paprika provided a nice yellow effect to the broth that, coupled with the vibrant green of the flat-leaf Italian parsley, offered eye-pleasing contrast. I used square Japanese porcelain bowls and purposely mounded the oysters up in the middle of each bowl. I then topped the oysters with the parsley. The only word of caution is to not scald the milk and be sure and turn down the heat to simmer as you watch for the oyster edges to curl. Enjoy.
Originally published November 16, 2009