Fondly recalling tonging oysters in Chesapeake Bay with my father or witnessing him effortlessly shuck a bushel of those craggy creatures received from his friends on Tilghman Island, I associate eating oysters with the New Year. I was inspired by a jarful of just-shucked Chincoteague oysters in the fish section of our local farmer’s market and just had to indulge. These oysters were small, so I probably got 18-24 in a 12 oz jar. Rather than making traditional oyster stew from nothing more than butter, milk, cream and oysters (possibly a little minced onion), I made a version that was chowder-like, using onions, scallions, celery, tiny cubes of yellow potatoes, a little thin crispy bacon, parsley, milk and cream – all local except the celery– topped with crispy cubes of bread.
12 oz shucked oysters with their liquid
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tender stalks celery, trimmed and finely diced
1 medium yellow potato, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
Optional: 1 scallion, minced, including all of the white and a little of the green parts
2 c milk (I used low-fat)
¼ c heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Optional: 1 or 2 very thin slices of bacon, cooked and drained
A sprig or 2 of parsley leaves, chopped
Drain the liquid from the oysters and set both aside. Melt a small amount of butter in a saucepan and add the onion and celery, cooking gently until translucent. Add the potatoes and scallions and stir to coat them with the butter. Add the milk, cream and the oyster liquid, bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are crisp-tender (about 6-8 minutes). Add the reserved oysters and simmer gently until the oysters start to curl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in the parsley and bacon, if using, and serve hot, topped with a couple of bread croutons.