This is a simple but rich Southern-style dish; swapping out the cream for something less indulgent is not recommended.
Oyster liquor is the briny, grayish liquid from inside the shell. Some shucked oysters are packed in their own liquor. If the fishmonger shucks the oysters for you, let him know you need the liquid for this recipe.
- 1/2 cup peeled and finely diced Yukon Gold potatoes
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- 1/2 cup oyster liquor (see headnote)
- 4 1/2 cups heavy cream
- Freshly ground white or black pepper
- Hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
- 24 large shucked oysters, preferably local
- Basil leaves, for garnish
Prepare a bowl of ice water and ice cubes.
Heat a small saucepan of salted water over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook for 2 minutes, just to blanch them. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to the ice-water bath, then drain and transfer to a plate.
Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat, then add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it has softened. Add the oyster liquor and cream, stirring to combine; increase the heat to medium-high and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with pepper and hot pepper sauce to taste, then remove from the heat and add the blanched potatoes.
(At this point, the stew may be cooled to room temperature, transferred to a container, covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
When ready to serve, add the oysters, stirring to incorporate. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil, then cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute (the oysters should be just warmed through), then remove from the heat. Divide among individual bowls; tear the basil leaves and sprinkle them among the portions.
Adapted from a recipe by Cindy Wolf, executive chef and owner of Charleston restaurant in Baltimore.
Tested by Kathy Orton.
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