Oyster Chowder

The 3 Best Ways to Eat Oysters

The information, recipe and photography in this post were provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com or in her cookbook, One Pan Whole Family. 

I didn’t always love oysters, but I now find them irresistible. To me, they taste like the ocean smells. It’s a funny thing to say, I know, but my love affair with the sea now includes not only cool blue waves and sea glass, but oysters, briny and fresh. I adore them raw with a simple mignonette sauce or just a squeeze of lemon and nothing could be simpler or more delicious with an icy cold Sauvignon Blanc on the side.

Once you get through the shucking process ( see my How-To Guide for easy methods), you can either enjoy them raw or prepare them using one of my three favorite oyster recipes: Oysters Mignonette, Oysters Rockefeller and Oyster Chowder.

Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette

Our love affair with the tender mollusk began with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Ever since she rose from the sea on an oyster shell and the term aphrodisiac was coined, oysters have been synonymous with romance. Aficionados of raw oysters believe that a drop or two of sharp mignonette sauce is the ultimate accompaniment to their clean, briny crispness and I couldn’t agree more.

It’s that easy: When serving oysters on the half shell, quality is of utmost importance. Search out Olympic oysters from the Pacific Northwest, or Belon, Blue Point or Wellfleet oysters from the east coast for the most succulent flavor.

Start-to-Finish: 2 hours
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons shallot
  • 1/4 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 18 fresh oysters, shells scrubbed and shucked on the half shell
  • 3 cups crushed ice

Instructions

  1. On a cutting board, finely chop the shallot.
  2. Combine the shallot, vinegar, honey, salt and peppercorns in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool.
  3. Pick out the peppercorns and transfer mixture to a small metal pan and place in the freezer until solid. Scrape the surface with a fork to make a frozen snowcone-like, icy texture and return to the freezer.
  4. Spread 1/2-inch of ice or kosher salt (if you’re going to eat them fast) on a platter. Arrange the chilled oysters on the half shell so that they don’t tip over. Working quickly, sprinkle about 1/4-teaspoon of the mignonette granita on each oyster. Serve immediately.

In the glass: A glass of champagne, Sauvignon Blanc or a dirty vodka martini sounds perfect.

Oysters Mignonette

Click Here to Print the Recipe for Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette.

Oysters Rockefeller

Back in 1899, Antoine’s in New Orleans served the first Oysters Rockefeller. Most restaurants that delve into bivalves serve a version of this sinfully-rich take on John D. Rockefeller’s namesake dish. The creamy, cheesy sauce robes the oyster meat with crunchy bacon and buttery bread crumb topper. An oldie but a goodie, this appetizer deserves a special place on your holiday menu, but I could make a meal of it any day of the week.

It’s that easy: Pernod is a licorice or fennel flavored liquor from France. A touch of it can make seafood dishes sing, so if you have some in your liquor cabinet add it, but if you have to buy a bottle just for this dish, go ahead and skip it if you like. The dish is fabulous either way.

Start-to-Finish: 45 minutes
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup kale, stems removed
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 3/4 cup milk plus more if needed
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
  • (Optional) 1 tablespoon Pernod or other anise-flavored liquor
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • About 3 pounds kosher salt for baking and serving
  • 18 fresh oysters, shells scrubbed, shucked, on the half shell

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. On a large cutting board, chop the kale finely, discarding tough stems. Slice the onion thinly, both white and green parts and mince the garlic and parsley in separate piles.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook, turning, until crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and crumble into small pieces. Reserve.
  4. To the hot fat in the pan, add the kale, green onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the milk and half-and-half and continue to stir until it thickens, 1 minute. Stir in the cheese until it melts, 1 minute. Stir in the parsley, Pernod, if using, and hot pepper sauce. Taste and add salt if needed and a few grinds of pepper. Keep warm. If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it with a little more milk
  5. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the panko.
  6. Spread the kosher salt over a baking sheet to a depth of about 1/2-inch. Arrange the oysters in half shells on top of the salt, making sure that they are stable and won’t roll over. Top each oyster with a tablespoon or so of the sauce mixture, a crumble of bacon and sprinkle with a sprinkle of the panko mixture.
  7. Bake the oysters in the upper rack of the oven until the crumbs brown and the edges of the oysters begin to curl, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. While the oysters are cooking, pour about 1/2-cup of the kosher salt onto each of 6 serving plates. Carefully arrange the hot oysters on top of the salt (make sure they are stable before you carry them to the table) and serve immediately.

In the glass: Glorious champagne!

Oysters Rockefeller

Click Here to Print the Recipe for Oysters Rockefeller.

Oyster Chowder

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. 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.

To make it just a little more special, we’ll add bacon and leek which gives a wonderful smokey, oniony flavor. I’ll grab a baguette and a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc to keep me company while I cook and then to go with the chowder when we sit down.

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

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 them. Here’s how I do it. Trim off the root end and about 1/4 inch of the white base. Then,  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 layers. Drain the leek on paper towels and you’re ready to slice and go.

Start-to-Finish: 35 minutes
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 leek, white and pale green parts
  • 2 red skin potatoes (3 if small), unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1-lb oysters
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • Salt
  • Oyster crackers or saltines as an accompaniment

Instructions

  1. On a large cutting board, slice the leek thinly, dice the potato into 1/2-inch cubes and mince the parsley in separate piles. Strain and reserve the oyster liquor from the oysters and cut the oysters in half if larger than 1-inch.
  2. Heat a large 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.
  3. Add the butter to the hot pan along with the leeks and dried thyme. Sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, a few grinds of pepper and cayenne and stir it into the leeks. Cook for about 1 minute to cook off the raw taste of the flour. Add the half-and-half, clam juice and the oyster liquid, stirring until blended. Add the potato and bring the soup to a simmer. It will thicken. Reduce the heat and cook at a bare simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the oysters and 2 tablespoons parsley and cook for another 3 minutes, or until the oysters are cooked through. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper or cayenne if needed.
  4. Ladle the soup into heated bowls and garnish with the crumbled bacon and remaining tablespoon parsley. Serve with oyster crackers or saltines and hot sauce if you like it spicy.

In the glass: I can’t think of anything I’d rather drink with this comforting soup than a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. With so many great bottles to choose from, it can be confusing, so ask your Heinen’s wine guy or gal for help if you’d like to try something new. For me, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc always hits the sweet spot.

Oyster Chowder

Click Here to Print the Recipe for Oyster Chowder.

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