This dish is the exception that proves the rules about stew—that it must be simmered at length, is thick-textured, and tastes better on the second day. Oyster stew takes just moments to make, has a milky base, and is at its best the instant the oysters are tender. Still, like “real” stews, the flavors are rich, layered and synergistic. What’s more, coastal residents of New England, the Pacific region and the South who down it with relish call it stew, so stew it is.
Make this just before serving it and warm the bowls ahead of time. Also, don’t skip the crackers; they are an integral part of the experience.
Combine oysters, their liquid and 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium-low flame. Heat gently over a medium-low flame until the edges of the oysters just begin to curl, 3-5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine heavy cream, milk, onion, and rosemary or thyme (if desired) in another saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium flame; cook 3 minutes.
Slowly add cream mixture to oyster mixing, stirring slowly but constantly. Add a dash or two of hot pepper sauce, if desired. Ladle into warm bowls, sprinkle with paprika or minced parsley, and serve immediately with crackers on top.
Copyright by Terese Allen