Oyster Stew

November 22, 2016

 

Start to finish: 35 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes

The sun was shining, but it was really cold outside. Driving to the grocery store the steering wheel was like ice; I wished for fingers in my fingerless gloves. The parking lot was full but the store not so much. What will it be for dinner tonight?

Something hot and creamy that will make my husband and I smile. A quick and easy oyster chowder can actually make us glad to live in the snow belt. And to make it just a little more special, we’ll add bacon, a few shrimp and leek which gives a wonderful but subtle oniony flavor. I’ll grab a baguette and a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc to keep me company while I cook and to go with the chowder when we sit down. If you’re looking for something a little sweet to end the meal, check out Caramel Oranges for a refreshing finish.

Velvety rich with potatoes, bacon and luscious oysters and shrimp, eating this meal makes me feel kind of sorry for those poor souls from balmier climes. Really, I do.

It’s that easy: Leeks are grown in troughs of dirt and sand which finds its way into every nook and cranny of the plant. That’s why is so important to clean your leeks well before using. Here’s how I do it. Trim off the root end and about 1/4 inch of the white base. Trim each of the darkest portions of the leaves down to the light green, tender part. Slice the leeks lengthwise down the center and rinse all the layers under cold running water to remove all dirt and sand, being careful to get in between the leaves. Drain the leek on paper towels and you’re ready to slice and go.

1 leek, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced, about 3/4 cup/175 ml
1 red skin potato, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice, about 3/4 cup/175 ml
1 tsp/5 ml minced parsley
1/4 tsp/1/25 ml dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt/1.25 ml plus more for sprinkling
2 tbsp/30 ml flour
2 cups/480 ml half and half
1 cup/249 ml clam juice
8 oz/ 225 g oysters, the liquid strained and reserved, oysters cut in half if larger than 1-in
6 medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tbsp/15 ml butter
2 slices of bacon
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon
Pinch cayenne

A baguette or oyster crackers as an accompaniment

Slice the leek, dice the potato and mince the parsley on a large cutting board into individual piles. Measure out the thyme, salt, flour, half and half, clam juice, oysters, shrimp, butter and bacon.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until crispy, about 2 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate, crumble when cool and set aside.

Add the butter to the hot fat in the pan along with the leeks and dried thyme. Saute the vegetables until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the thyme, salt, flour and a few grinds of pepper and stir it into the leeks. Stir for about 1 minute to cook off the raw taste. Add the half and half, clam juice and the oyster liquid stirring until blended. Add the potato and bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the crumbled bacon, oysters, shrimp and parsley and cook for another 3 minutes or until the oysters and shrimp are cooked through. Taste and season with a squirt of lemon and more salt or pepper if it needs it.

Ladle the soup into heated bowls and garnish them with a sprinkle of the cayenne. Serve with the baguette or oyster crackers.

In the glass: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

In my ears: Anyhow

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