Exploring the culture, food, and traditions of North Carolina

Simple Oyster Chowder

Oyster chowder is a winter staple of mine. Harvesting fresh oysters, shucking them, and then creating someone sinfully good with just a few simple ingredients. I live for dishes that contain both simplicity and decadence. And that to me is what a good oyster chowder will do.

Now, since I was making this on a smaller scale (think about 4 hardy bowls of chowder), I didn’t get that many oysters. I picked up half a peck from my local seafood market, as the winds the day I wanted to cook this were whipping around, and not playing nice for me to head out in a kayak.

I chose clusters, for both the price point and the purpose. If I am going to shuck and have a beautiful raw oyster presentation, or if I am going to make something like a fancy oyster-on-the-half-shell dish, I will choose singles. They will win every time. But as long as you don’t mind putting in the elbow grease work, then clusters work just as well.

I only found two of the small oyster crabs in my clusters. I actually prefer to find more than just a few…. I feel that the oysters come from a more nutrient rich area in those cases, although that may or may not be true.

So here’s my oyster recipe. It’s simple, not fancy, and it doesn’t involve any bells or whistles. Measurements are approximate, because it’s all just eyeballed to be honest with you!

Ingredients:
1/2 peck of clusters, shucked was the (Keep the liquor of the oysters to the side too)
1 large onion
4 stalks of celery
3 medium potatoes
3 carrots
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup of white wine (give or take…)
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 stick of butter
2 bay leaves
pepper

Start by chopping the onions, celery, and carrots into similar sized pieces (dime sized or round about that) and adding them to a pot on medium high heat, with the butter. Saute them until the onions start to get clear. Then you want to add your white wine and garlic, and cook down a bit, before adding the bay leaf, potatoes (cut into quarter-dollar coin sized pieces), liquor, and stock (you want to cover all of your veggies and then some). Once heated throughout, reduce to a simmer. I let this simmer for a few hours, until the potatoes really start breaking down a bit. Gives the chowder an even creamier consistency. The house smells AMAZING, and it just lets all those good flavors marinade. You can add additional herbs here too. thyme and rosemary are examples of additional flavors I start to throw into winter dishes (and cocktails…but that’s a later post). Once you’ve cooked it down a bit, and your getting ready to eat dinner, add the cream into the chowder on low heat, and RIGHT before you serve, throw in the oysters. You want to cook them right until they start to curl on the edges, then they are done!

I like to serve this with crusty bread, and I have to say, it’s quite the treat in my house when I make it!

Do  you have a favorite recipe for oysters? Let’s hear it!



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