oyster stew with fennel + fresh herbs
photo by Jennifer Johnson
This stew is comfort in a bowl. It’s the best version of a thick chowder, studded with oysters instead of clams. We love the hint of anise that you get from the fennel and the Pernod, but if you aren’t a fan of that flavor, you can easily swap them both out, using celery for the fennel and white wine for the Pernod.
12 oysters, cleaned and dried
4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 fennel bulb (reserve fronds), diced (about 1 cup)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups diced Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons Pernod
4 cups low-sodium (or homemade) vegetable stock
1/2-1 cup whole milk (or cream), or a combination
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fennel fronds
Fresh lemons, for garnish
Oyster crackers, for serving
Shuck oysters, placing in a small bowl as you go, and reserving as much liquor as possible. Remove oysters from bowl and roughly chop. Place in another small bowl. Strain reserved liquor through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a third bowl. Set oyster liquor aside.
Add bacon to a Dutch oven and place over medium heat. Cook until bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
Return pan to medium heat and remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat and add butter. Add onion and fennel and cook until softened, 5-10 minutes. Add cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in flour, coating vegetables. Cook for 1 minute, or until flour is incorporated. Add Pernod, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add reserved oyster liquor and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, 30-45 minutes (depending on size).
Add milk (or cream) and bring to a simmer. Cook about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add shucked oysters, half of bacon, parsley, and fennel fronds and cook another minute or so, until warmed through. Divide among serving bowls and top each with remaining bacon, and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm with lemons and crackers.