Quick Recipes and Easy

Oyster Stew: A Healthier Holiday Recipe

When our kids were young if you said “oyster stew” they would grimace and exclaim, “Yuk!” Other kids in the extended family had the same eaction. But eating oyster stew on Christmas Eve was a family tradition. How could I get our kids to keep it?

Family members came up with a plot. Kids would be required to taste one spoonful of stew and then they could eat something else. As the years passed, but, one spoonful of stew became two, then three, then trying an oyster, and finally, eating a whole bowl of soup. Now my adult kids like oyster stew.

The original Britsh recipe – oysters, butter, cream, salt and pepper – was based on staple foods of the time. Over time this recipe made its way to America. “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book,” orignally published in 1890 and edited by Fannie Farmer, contains four recipes for oyster stew. One is the British recipe, only milk is substituted for cream.

The second recipe, Cream of Oyster Soup, is thickened with flour and contains onion, celery, and mace. The third recipe, Oyster Soup, Amsterdam Style, is made with cream and calls for celery salt. And the fourth recipe, Bisque of Oysters, Capucine, contains cream, egg yolks, nutmeg, and peas, of all things.

“The Victory Cook Book, Wartime Edition,” first published in 1943, has three recipes for oyster stew: Bisque of Oysters (thickened with flour and stale bread crumbs), Oyster Stew (the British recipe), and Thickened Oyster Stew based on a white sauce.

Today, oyster stew recipes are posted on the Internet and many are still loaded with butter, cream, and salt. I’m eating healthier these days. Could I come up with a slimmer version of oyster stew? The only way to find out was to make a test batch.

Instead of cream or whole milk I used skim milk. I eliminated the four teaspoons of salt most recipes call for and added flavor with red pepper, onion power, and a bay leaf. Better yet, I reduced the high stout content (as much as two cups of butter!) to two tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. My Updated Oyster Stew was rich-tasting, creamy, and packed with flavor. Here’s the recipe – just in time for the holidays.


INGREDIENTS: 1 pound shucked oysters and their liquid; 2 tablespoons butter; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 1 1/2 tablespoons minced red pepper; 1/4 cup Wondra flour; 3 1/2 cups skim milk; 2 teaspoons onion powder; 2 teaspoons celery salt; 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce; freshly ground pepper to taste; 1 bay leaf; 2 teaspoons snipped fresh parsley

Place the oysters and their liquid in a small saucepan. Heat the oysters over low heat until the edges start to curl. Cover pan and set oysters aside.

Melt butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add minced red pepper and saute until tender. Stir in Wondra flour and cook for 30 seconds. Using a whisk, slowly add milk to the flour mixture. Cook soup base over medium heat, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened. Add seasonings, bay leaf and parsley. Gently stir oysters into soup base. Cover stew and keep warm over low heat for 15 minutes to blend flavors. (Don’t ever let the stew boil.) Remove bay leaf. Serve stew in warm bowls with oyster crackers or saltines. Makes 5-6 servings.

Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson.

harriethodgson.com harriethodgson.com

Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 27 years and it a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Before she became a health writer she was a food writer for the former “Rochester Magazine” in her hometown of Rochester, MN. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from amazon.com amazon.com A five-star review of the book is also posted on Amazon.

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