When I was growing up we were told that the only months that were OK for eating oysters are those with an R in them. Well, it's September, so the season for oysters has begun. Truthfully, I sometimes eat oysters in other months as long as they are local ones. We have companies in our area which grow oysters year-round in Tomales Bay, so there are always some oysters in the right stage of development to be eaten. Still, old tapes are hard to dislodge. September means I can eat oysters and so I do.
Oysters are an acquired taste. If you eat them raw, it is like a slurp of sea brine with a little bit of muscle thrown in. It's hard to imagine why anyone ate them in the first place, but once you get to like them they get a hold on you. I could eat them all the time. Unfortunately they, like most seafood these day, are somewhat expensive, so I save them for a treat.
Tonight's treat was Oyster Stew. Our market had jars of small ones on sale and I had green onions, celery, carrots, parsley, small red potatoes, corn and milk handy, plus some bacon. That, plus some salt, pepper and thyme is all you need to make a warm, hardy bowlful of deliciousness.
There are lots of ways to make Oyster Stew. I started by cooking the red potatoes. Mostly that was because I wanted to keep this a one pot dish. After they were cooked and draining, I used the same pot to cook some bacon, then, after fishing out the cooked bacon, I used the bacon grease to cook the onions, celery and carrots. After that it was a simple matter to drain the oysters, mix a bit of flour with the reserved liquid the oyster had been packed in, and then used that to thicken the milk/veggie combo a bit. Throw in some thyme, salt and pepper, the potatoes, the corn and heat 'em up. Right before you are ready to serve, add the rinsed oysters and stir. Set the timer for 1 minutes, stir again, and let sit one more minute. You'll see the edges of the oysters curl like ruffles on a dress. That's it! Time to ladle the stew into bowls and top with a bit of chopped Italian parsley, then dig in. Mmmm.
Elle's Oyster Stew
3-4 small red potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces
3 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 green onions, sliced fine, including part of the greens
1 medium carrot, diced fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1 jar small oysters
2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 -2 cups frozen or fresh corn - if frozen, thaw in the microwave
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
In a large pot, cook the red potatoes in simmering water until tender. Drain and set aside.In the same pot, cook the bacon until crisp, turning once or twice for even cooking. Remove the bacon and set aside.
In the same pot, sauté the green onions, carrot and celery in the bacon grease until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring often.While the veggies cook, drain the oysters in a fine mesh strainer, reserving the liquid they were packed in. Rinse the oysters under cold running water. If the oysters are large, cut them in half. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour and the reserved oyster liquid. Set aside.Add the milk, thyme, salt and pepper to the pot of veggies, stirring to release any browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pot. Stir in the flour mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until liquid thickens a bit. Add the reserved potatoes, bacon, and corn. Heat thoroughly but don't boil.
2 minutes before it is time to serve the stew, make sure that the stew is hot, then add the prepared oysters. Set a timer for 1 minutes. When one minute has passed, stir the stew, then let sit a few more seconds. The oyster edges will have ruffled, so you know they are cooked. Ladle stew into bowls and top with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Serve at once.