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.

(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

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!

(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

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.

(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

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.
(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

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?