I always look forward to the big Saturday Market in Santa Monica. Regina loves buying flavored honey sticks for Bennet. Frequently I shop for work or just nose around, tasting things and seeing what’s in season. We both love the pretzel nuggets from The Bread Man, who hangs out not in the market proper any more (sad face) but on Arizona outside the market boundaries. But lately our favorite stand is the one featuring Carlsbad Aquaculture oysters and mussels.
|If you love oysters, perhaps try a simple creamy oyster stew. Old school and delicious.|
They have several different oyster varieties (luna, catalina), but I generally prefer the “blondes”. They’ve got a faint yellowish hue on the shell, they’re about medium-sized (let’s say the meat is about 1.5 inches across, shucked), and they’re easy to open. Flavor-wise: mild, slightly briny, sweet, with a touch of cucumber and a slight metallic finish (but in a good way). Carlsbad also sells mussels and clams but I never make it past the fresh oysters. Regina and I will frequently slurp a few down standing up, the blondes splashed with dashes of packaged cocktail sauce and squidges of lemon. My friend Sebastian is often manning the stand, happily shucking and selling oysters. We’ll trade a few pleasantries and suck down a few of the delicious and tender molluscs.
Occasionally I take a few home to eat raw or to cook. It’s been a little cool at night recently, so soups have been on my mind. Oyster stew seemed perfect to use up a few excess bivalves — creamy, warm, briny, robust, a little funky. In my opinion the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City has always been the gold standard for oysters fresh and stewed. I’ve taken their recipe for Oyster Pan Roast and tweaked it a bit.
If you know me at all you understand my love for old American classics (go back and read my Hobo Steak post). However, like oyster stew, many dishes from bygone eras are larded with butter and cream and lacking utterly in any of the “healthy” considerations we must make these days. So it’s just a heads-up. Calorically speaking, this dish should be enjoyed sparingly.
|Easy to make and quite filling.|
Makes three or four servings.
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon very finely minced celery
2 cups bottled clam juice
3 tablespoons Heinz brand sweet chili sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
a pinch of cracked black pepper
2 or 3 dashes of tabasco sauce
16 shucked Carlsbad oysters with their juice
1 cup half-and-half (room temperature)
1 cup heavy cream (room temperature)
a couple of pinches sweet Hungarian paprika
finely minced parsley
Set up a double boiler with a stainless steel bowl set snugly into a saucepan with one-to-two inches of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a boil and melt the butter in the bowl. Add celery and soften for about two minutes. Add clam juice, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, lemon juice, black pepper, and tabasco sauce and whisk gently to combine. Heat until very warm and add oysters. Poach oysters in the liquid for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Add half-and-half and cream and warm for about three minutes.
Divide toast slices between three or four shallow bowls. Divide oysters evenly among bowls. Top with warm creamy broth. Garnish with paprika and parsley. Serve with oyster crackers on the side.