Creole Oyster Stew

Today was the kind of day that reminds me how happy I am to be a Virginian.  I drove over Afton Mountain and through part of the Shenandoah Valley with a friend.  Bright sunshine, warm temperatures and beautiful Fall leaves.  Pretty hard to beat.  But there’s more.    A little antiquing/junking that resulted in the purchase of a gorgeous hand-beaded cashmere sweater for $17 – even better.  But wait, there’s more still.  Oysters from Urbanna made into a rich and creamy oyster stew.   Nothing more required.

Honestly there’s not a lot of Creole to this stew.  It’s very mild.  Too much spice and you’d lose the flavor of the oysters.  I made half a recipe of stew.  It’s just me so I try to make small batches of things that don’t keep very long.  I won’t have any trouble getting through this – assuming I don’t have a heart attack.  There’s nothing light about this.  It has bacon, bacon grease, butter and heavy cream.  Fortunately only small amounts of each.  A little indulgence from time to time is good for the soul.

This is pretty easy to make.  Only one pot.  I didn’t substitute much today. I used dried thyme instead of fresh because that’s what I had.  I left out the parsley because the parsley in my vegetable drawer was beyond saving.  The other change I made was that I made a half recipe of stew, but used the full amount of celery and onions to give it a little extra bulk.  Other than that I followed the instructions.  If you don’t want to use bacon I think you could leave it out.  I’d probably add just a touch of liquid smoke for the flavor though. There’s a wonderful mix of flavors here.  Creamy, buttery, briny and smoky.  If I’d had some parsley there would have been a nice bright green accent too.  And it’s pretty.  Using white pepper keeps the stew clean.  And the oysters have beautiful ruffles when they’re cooked.

I highly recommend oyster stew as the end to a beautiful Fall day.  Buy local oysters if you can. And only in months that end in “ber.”  Enjoy!

Good?  So good.
Easy? Yep. Minimal chopping. Just some stirring.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? No, but be picky about your oysters.

Creole Oyster Stew

Ingredients

3 slices bacon, crumbled
2 T unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch cayenne
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pint oysters, picked over for shells, liquid drained and reserved
2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a large pot, cook the bacon until crisp and the fat is rendered, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.

To the fat remaining in the pan, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook gently, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the green onions, garlic, salt, white pepper, cayenne, and thyme and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring, to make a light roux, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the reserved oyster liquor and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid thickens, about 4 minutes. Add the oysters and simmer until the oysters start to curl, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the cream and reserved bacon and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Serve hot with French bread.

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