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Oyster stew
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Oyster stew

Many families serve a bowl of steaming oyster stew as a Christmas Eve dish; for others, it's a New Year's Eve specialty. It works fine for me either way, or on any other wintry night.

It doesn't qualify as dietary fare, not with that rich cream and butter. But if you can't make an exception for the holidays, when can you? Note also that if you try it on New Year's Eve (or any other festive occasion), it makes an exceptional match with your finest Champagne.

The process is easy, but do take care not to overcook the oysters, which quickly robs them of their tenderness and delicate sea-breeze flavor.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 pint fresh oysters
1/2 small onion, enough to make about 2 tablespoons when chopped
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups half-and-half
Salt
White pepper
Paprika

PROCEDURE:

1. Chop the onions and garlic together, using knife or food processor, until they're minced very fine. Sautee them gently in the butter, taking care to let them get translucent but not brown.

2. While the onions are cooking, put the oysters with their liquor into a small saucepan and put over medium heat. Cook just until the oysters are warm and their edges starting to curl; they'll cook a bit more in the soup. Lift out the oysters with a slotted spoon and put aside, reserving the liquid.

3. When the onions and garlic are translucent and soft, stir in the flour and cook for a moment or two. Then add the oyster liquid and half-and-half (or substitute whole milk, heavy cream or a combination if you wish). Cook, stirring frequently with a spatula or wooden spoon to ensure that the liquid doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pan, for 10 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Put in the oysters and continue simmering until they're warmed through. Season with salt and white pepper to taste, add a shake of paprika, and serve.

WINE MATCH: As noted, quality Champagne works fine with this dish, as would any rich white. We enjoyed it with an older Hunter Valley Semillon from Australia, and it should go very well with a good white Burgundy or not overly oaky New World Chardonnay.

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Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Sort-of Cordon Bleu (Dec. 12)
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Thursday, Dec. 26, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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