Creamy Oyster and Potato Stew

Luxury in a bowl and the best way to serve cooked oysters.
TIME 45 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
1 pound small waxy red or white potatoes, halved
3 tablespoons butter
2 large or 3 medium shallots, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup white wine or dry sherry
2 cups cream
16 to 24 oysters, shucked, liquid reserved, those with broken shells discarded (1 quart)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 Put the potatoes in a large pot, add a pinch of salt and enough water to cover by 2 inches, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the water bubbles vigorously. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the potatoes are just barely tender at the center; a paring knife will still meet some resistance when inserted. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid.

2 Return the pot to medium heat (no need to wipe it out) and add the butter. When it foams, add the shallots, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft and golden, 5 to 10 minutes.

3 Raise the heat to medium-high, add the wine, and stir until it almost all bubbles away, a minute or two. Add the cream, the reserved oyster liquid and potato cooking liquid, and the potatoes. Bring the mixture just to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens a little, about 5 minutes, then lower the heat so it barely bubbles.

4 Slip the oysters into the pot, cover, and turn off the heat. After 5 minutes, take a peek; the oysters should be turning opaque; if not, put the lid on for another minute or two. Stir in the tarragon, taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve.

  • Lighter Oyster and Potato Stew: Use 3 cups fish, chicken, or vegetable stock instead of the cream.
  • Shrimp Bisque: Use 1½ pounds peeled shrimp instead of the oysters. If you have time (and peel your own shrimp), boil the shells and tails in the reserved potato water for 15 minutes; strain, then let the starch settle and continue with the recipe. Let the soup cool a bit, then carefully purée it in a blender and return it to the pot over medium-low heat to rewarm before garnishing and serving.

  • Oysters have an incredibly delicate flavor and texture, which is why they’re so good raw. Lightly poaching them in the warm cream instead of blasting them over high heat—helps to preserve their natural character.

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