Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this recipe, this family favorite oyster stew is the best I’ve ever had! Unlike many oyster stew recipes, ours call for a little bit of potato, which makes this stew stick to your ribs satisfying without diluting the delicate oyster taste.
Although oyster stew is a quintessential Christmas Eve dish, there is absolutely no need to wait for the holidays to enjoy this delicious recipe! Even if you live far away from the ocean, like me, this recipe can be made year-round using jarred oysters.
What kind of oysters to use for oyster stew?
You can use either fresh or jarred oysters here, as both works well in this recipe.
I use jarred oysters since we live far from the ocean and fresh oysters are not readily available. However, you can definitely use freshly shucked oysters if they are available to you.
Jarred oysters tend to have more nutrients than fresh oysters, but only if you use the liquid from the jarred oysters. This recipe uses all of the liquid in the jar, so nothing is wasted and all the flavor goes into in to the stew.
When purchasing your oysters, look for them in clear glass jars with a screw-top or in clear plastic tubs where you can see the oysters. The oyster liquid should look clear and clean. Oysters in cloudy liquid should be avoided.
With a clear container, you should also check that the oysters are plump and have a fresh color to them. If anything seems off, try and find a jar where the oysters look fresh and healthy.
How to make oyster stew?
It’s quite simple and straightforward to make an oyster stew. Since oysters have a subtle mineral taste that is easily overpowered, we use very little seasoning in this recipe and let the amazing flavor of the oysters shine.
I love to use bacon fat to sauté the vegetables first, but if you don’t have any bacon fat, you can use butter instead.
Most oyster stew recipes don’t call for potatoes. But my mother-in-law always used it in hers, and we just love it that way! Russet or Yukon gold potatoes work great.
Once the vegetables are sautéed, we’ll add a little bit of flour and seasoning and toast it with vegetables until nutty. This thickens the soup beautifully! To avoid any raw flour taste, it’s important to toast the flour sufficiently, stirring non-stop to prevent burning.
Then slowly pour in the reserved oyster juice, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick and it’s perfectly normal.
Finally, add warm milk into the pot and slowly bring the soup to a simmer.
2 reasons to warm up the milk before adding it to the soup:
- To prevent curdling.
- To cut down the time it takes to warm up the soup.
And the last step is to add oysters and cook for additional 2-3 minutes. And serve!!
Why does my oyster stew curdle?
While a curdled oyster stew still tastes delicious, it doesn’t look as appetizing as it should. There are two main ways your soup can curdle while cooking but they are easy to watch out for.
Heat is what causes oyster stew to curdle. Specifically, too much heat or if the heat is applied too quickly while cooking, it can cause the stew to begin curdling. That’s why slowly heating an oyster stew is crucial. Again, your oyster stew should never be brought to a boil at any stage of the cooking as this will cause curdling.
Another way curdling can occur is by adding cold milk to a warmer oyster stew. The difference in temperature of the stew and milk can cause curdling to occur. To avoid this, simply warm up the milk in the microwave for 2 minutes before slowly adding it to the stew, stirring continuously.
Curdled sauces and stews can be difficult to correct. If you find your oyster stew starting to curdle, immediately stop the cooking and quickly add a little bit cold milk. Once the temperature of the stew has stabilized, you can start to slowly warm it up again until the stew is ready to serve. There is no guarantee that the stew will not curdle again but following these steps will improve your chances.
Bonus note: using evaporated milk also prevents curdled soup.
How to serve oyster stew?
Oyster stew is best served fresh as getting it to the right temperature took a lot of work!
Serve your oyster stew immediately, garnished with fresh parsley, some hot sauce, and soda crackers.
If you need some side dish options, go for simple flavors that can complement the delicious, rich flavor of the stew. Crackers are traditionally served with oyster stew and you can also add some roast potatoes or a side salad to serve alongside.
Family Favorite Oyster Stew
- 1 pint 473ml oysters (Note 1)
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
- 1 cup diced potato* Note 2
- 1 cup diced celery 2-3 celery stalks
- 1 small shallot minced
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon old bay seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups whole milk slightly warmed (Note 3)
- Fresh parsley
- Hot sauce such as Tabasco
- Soda crackers
- Drain the oysters over a bowl with a sieve and rinse under cold water to remove any sand or shell bits. Reserve the oyster juice. Roughly chop the oysters.
- Place a paper towel over a mesh sieve to catch any sand and impurities and run the reserved oyster juice through the sieve into a clean bowl.
- Heat a large pot over medium high heat.
- Add bacon fat or butter.
- Once the fat is melted and hot, add potatoes, celery and shallot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Reduce heat to medium and add flour, old bay seasoning and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until flour is nicely toasted, about 1 minute.
- Slowly add reserved oyster juice, continuously stirring everything and scraping the fond (brown bits), built on the bottom of the pan. The mixture will get super thick, which is normal. If needed, add a little bit (1-2 tablespoons) of water to get all the brown bits scrapped off.
- Then slowly pour in milk, while stirring everything constantly, to gradually incorporate everything.
- Reduce heat to low/simmer, and slowly heat the soup up, about 10 minutes. (TIP: Don’t rush this step, because if you bring the soup to a boil, it’ll curdle, which won’t affect the flavor, but it’ll look unappetizing.)
- Add oysters and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Serve immediately with fresh parsley, hot sauce and soda crackers.
- Store leftover oyster stew in an airtight container in the fridge for up 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw frozen oyster stew in the fridge overnight, and then reheat it slowly over low heat.