Chris Hastings' Oyster Stew with Homemade Oyster Crackers

Chris Hastings' Oyster Stew with Homemade Oyster Crackers

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Chris Hastings' Oyster Stew with Homemade Oyster Crackers

Serves 8 to 10; Makes about 12 cups

Saffron Cream:
1/4 cup white wine
Pinch of saffron threads
1 cup Homemade Crème Fraîche, recipe follows or store bought crème fraîche
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Oyster Stew:
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup finely diced bacon
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped leeks (white part only)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
4 cups bottled clam juice or Fish Stock, recipe follows
2 cups heavy cream
11/2 cups peeled and finely chopped potatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pints freshly shucked oysters and their liquor
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for garnish
Homemade Oyster Crackers, recipe follows

To Prepare the Saffron Cream:
Heat the white wine and saffron in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by half, about 2 tablespoons. Remove the pan from the heat and cool completely. Remove and discard the saffron threads. Whisk the reduced wine in the crème fraîche and season with the salt and pepper. Refrigerate the saffron cream for at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve.

To Prepare the Oyster Stew:
Heat the peanut oil in a medium stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, just until the mixture begins to turn a light golden color, about 5 minutes. (Be careful not to let the flour mixture burn or get too dark.)

Add the onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the clam juice (or fish stock) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cream, potatoes, salt, and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in oysters and their liquor and cook, stirring for about 30 seconds, just until the oysters are heated through. Remove the stew from the heat.

Ladle the stew evenly into warmed soup bowls and garnish each serving with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the saffron cream and 1 teaspoon chives. Serve warm with homemade oyster crackers.

Homemade Crème Fraîche

Makes 2 cups

1 3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons whole-milk buttermilk

Whisk together the cream and buttermilk just to combine. Pour into a sterilized 2-cup jar (a mayonnaise or pickle jar works well) and cover tightly. Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 2 days.  

After 24 hours, the crème fraîche will have thickened. If the mixture is slightly separated, whisk until smooth. The crème fraîche can be used immediately or refrigerated until ready to use. Homemade crème fraîche will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Fish Stock

Makes about 1 quart

3 cups shrimp shells
1 cup fish bones or scraps from white-fleshed fish
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1/2 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups cold water

Combine all of the ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine-meshed strainer or sieve. The stock can be used immediately or chilled and refrigerated for up to three days.

Homemade Oyster Crackers

Makes about 160 crackers

21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced and well chilled
8 to 9 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice cold water
1 large egg

Sift together the flour and salt into a medium bowl and stir in the pepper. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, add the butter to the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, stirring just until the mixture begins to stick together and form dough.

Turn out the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and wrap tightly into a small disk. Chill dough for at least 2 hours before using.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Once the dough has rested, unwrap and place on a well-floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is almost paper thing, sprinkling additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Use a 11/2-inch round cutter to cut circles out of the dough and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Do not re-roll the dough scrapes as it will make the crackers tough. Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the crackers. Sprinkle kosher salt over the tops of the crackers and bake at 375ºF for 7 to 10 minutes or until slightly puffed and golden brown. Watch the crackers closely towards the end of the baking time as they will brown quickly. Allow crackers to cool completely on the baking sheet before serving.

GDA Cooking - November 26, 2012

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