Our family had a very low key, perfect New Year's Eve. The five of us headed to Edisto Island, with my mother in law joining us for one night, for a gloriously reclusive New Year. We picked up a bushel of oysters and steamed them in the oven, toasting 2014 hours before midnight, when only two of us remained awake. The next morning, we had leftover oysters. Even in a minimalist vacation rental kitchen, oyster stew is easy.
The night before, we kept shucking after we had had our fill, saving about three cups of oysters and juice for the soup. Bonus: Our youngest son loves shucking, but hates oysters. Free labor!
The ingredients available at the local grocery store are limited, but I wasn't worried. The oysters would play a starring role, and everything else was just filler.
It was a rainy day, and stripping thyme was a perfect distraction for our seven year old. He let his dad help.
I stayed in the kitchen, sipping coffee and making soup. Here's how I did it.
- Melt three tablespoons of butter in a pot on the stove, adding three tablespoons of flour for a roux, whisking until smooth, taking care not to burn it.
- Add a heaping spoonful of bacon grease if you have it, because bacon grease is delicious.
- Add about a cup each chopped onion and celery, as well as a spoonful of minced garlic, stirring them until they are fragrant and coated with roux, a minute for two.
- Add the liquid from the oysters and about four cups of stock. (If I had been at home, I would have used homemade stock from my freezer, but the boxed kind from the grocery store was just fine.)
- Let simmer for about 30 minutes, until the onion and celery are soft.
- Toss in the thyme, a couple of tablespoons. Dried thyme would be fine, too, maybe one spoonful.
- Add a splash of wine if you need an excuse to open the bottle. (Lillet is a favorite of mine for creamy seafood stews. Alas, I hadn't brought a bottle, so I made do with the dry rose we had been drinking the night before.)
- Add the oysters and simmer for a few more minutes, just long enough to heat the oysters.
- At the last minute, add a splash of cream, about a half cup.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
No oyster crackers? Spread some saltines on a baking tin, drizzle with as little butter as possible, and sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning or something similar. Toast for about five minutes in a 350° oven. Serve them on the side, encouraging people to crumble them liberally into the soup.
The stew, a one pot meal that was easy to make, felt like a decadent New Year's lunch. (Don't worry —we had our hoppin' john and collards for dinner!)
Meal-sized quantities of seafood are the norm when we go to the beach. We make crab cakes the morning after picking a couple dozen. Shrimp are delicious served the next morning with grits.
What do you do with leftover seafood?