Saturday, November 21, 2009

Oyster Stew, again

Oyster stew is such a great supper on a cold night. Especially with these cornbread crackers. And it is so easy. And fast. Once you have the celery and shallot diced, you're just about done!

  • 8 oz. (that's a half-pint) of standard oysters and their "liquor." You don't need the extra fancy, more expensive ones.
  • 2-3T butter
  • about a cup of milk. I used skim, because that's what I keep on hand, but of course whole milk would taste even better. (Although, because I am using skim, I don't feel at all bad about going with 3T butter!)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 plump shallot (maybe two if they are little), diced fine
  • salt
  • white pepper if you have it, otherwise fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon or more of sweet paprika. I don't used the smoked paprika for this because it might mask the delicate flavor of oysters. Can't think of anything else I wouldn't use smoked paprika in.
  • optional but very good: One leftover baked potato, large dice (When I am using the oven for something else, like the pork chops with cranberries in the previous recipe, I often throw a few potatoes in to bake. They can be used in so many things, and they taste way better than spuds "baked" in a microwave.
  • also optional, but I wanted to try it: a few "threads" of saffron, if you happen to have some kicking around.
Sweat the celery and shallot in the butter. Add the potatoes if you are using them. This is a good time to add salt and pepper, and of course you'll taste it at the end to see if it needs more. Start with 6 good dashes of salt and a couple of pepper.

Add the liquor from the oysters, but don't hurt yourself straining it. The rest can come along later when it is time to add the oysters, which go in last.

Add the paprika -- you don't put it in earlier because you don't want it to burn. I use a lot, close to a full teaspoon for this much stew.

Add the milk. If you need to "stretch" things, add more milk. Heck, even more potato, celery and shallot.

When the liquid is hot and just starting to simmer but before the milk really boils (scalded milk, yuck), dump in the oysters and any remaining liquid. Keep heating until the oysters curl, which really only takes a minute or so, then turn off the heat right away. It's done.

Grab some crackers -- I like cornbread, some people like traditional oyster crackers -- and a spoon. If you are hungry or if you are selfish about shellfish, this serves one as a full supper. You could easily make it serve two, maybe more if it's just a first course and you add more milk, etc.

If you are lucky enough to be sharing with someone who doesn't like oysters, you may find that they like the rest of this "stew" just fine if you call it potato soup, and then you get to eat all the oysters.

Last January I posted a recipe for Oyster Stew made with leeks. That was good, too, and you can look it up. This is more traditional.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cranberry Pork Chops with Morels

OK, full disclosure: This is slightly adapted from a recipe my Mom sent me. The original didn't have morel mushrooms and was slightly different in process. It's really good, and it's easy -- especially if you skip the part about stuffing the chops first!

  • 3 pork chops (I used thick, boneless ones, about 1/2 pound each)
  • 1 half-ounce package of dried morel mushrooms (you could use another kind of mushroom or another kind of stuffing, or skip the stuffing. I can't help myself when I have thick pork chops and morels on hand.
  • One cup chicken broth, heated in the microwave
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar (a little less if you like your cranberries on the tart side!)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. of Penzey's Cake Spice, or a pinch each of ground cloves, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon
  • 1 cup cranberries (washed an picked over, as always)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • cooking oil, about 1T-2T
Preheat oven to 350.

Soak the dried mushrooms in the hot chicken stock for at least 15 minutes. Longer doesn't hurt.
Then cut each chop open, fill the "pocket" with mushrooms, tie loosely with kitchen twine (or use toothpicks to hold them together. Grind pepper over both sides of the chops. Add a teaspoon of salt to the flour in a shallow bowl or pie pan or whatever and dredge the chops to coat lightly. Using an ovenproof pan (my cast-iron standby, of course), brown the chops in the oil on both sides, a couple of minutes each.

Mix the water, honey, sugar and spices. Heating the water and honey in the microwave helps the honey dissolve.

When the chops have had a chance to brown on each side, pour the cranberries over them, add the sugar/spice mixture, and put in the oven, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking, but not too long. Doneness depends on how big the chops are. The good thing is that the cranberry sauce keeps the chops moist.

Taste the cranberries and add more sugar if you really have to, but don't make it dessert-sweet -- should be on the tart side to complement the meat.

Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving. The photo shows one chop, sliced, with less than a third of the sauce. I am looking forward to the leftovers!


About Me

My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.