Oyster Stew

 

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With the first wave of Irish immigrants entering America in the 1700s, prior to the onset of the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852, many brought with them their culinary traditions of eating fish and shellfish of their home country. The vast majority Irish immigrants were Roman Catholic. And like most Catholics today, they followed religious dietary customs around holidays, one of which was to abstain from eating meat during Lent and on Christmas Eve and fish was the protein of choice.

In Ireland, the Christmas Eve meal revolved around a fish called the ling where home cooks made a simple stew using dried ling, milk, butter and black pepper. However, Irish cooks could not find dried ling in America and out of necessity, they adapted to using oysters because they were similar to dried ling. Today, many families enjoy serving a most satisfying dish of Oyster Stew as part of their religious customs. Oyster stew can be enjoyed any time of the year and the most important factors in preparing oyster stew is not allow the milk to boil and do not overcook the oysters. Be careful to avoid overcooking oysters, which causes them to become tough.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 quarts whole milk, warmed
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 dozen fresh oysters, shucked, with liquor reserved
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ bunch fresh chives, snipped, for garnish
Oyster crackers, for serving

Directions:
Drain the oysters using a very fine strainer to remove and reserve the liquor. Set aside.

In 6 quart Dutch oven, melt about 5 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and add the onion, celery and salt. Cook slowly, until onions are translucent and the celery is softened, for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring well to blend, cooking for 2 minutes.
Whisk in the milk, heavy cream and reserved oyster liquor. Add the cayenne pepper. Reduce the heat to a light simmer, stirring often to prevent scorching, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining butter. Add the oysters in a single layer, being careful not the crowd them. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and sauté until the edges of the oysters begin to curl, slightly revealing the gills.

Add the oysters to the Dutch oven and return to a gentle simmer to warm the stew through. Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the stew into shallow soup bowls. Garnish with chives and serve with oyster crackers.

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Parsnip and Leek Soup

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Photo Credit:Jonny Valiant, 2011.

 

 

For those celebrating the religious calendar, Lent is upon us, and for many it is the time to give up meat in our diets. For busy home cooks, this soup can be made in ahead of time, basically because it is an uncomplicated vegetable puree. For an added touch you can dressed-up this soup with a touch of American whitefish caviar, the salty counterpoint to sweet parsnips in the mix, makes the soup plenty festive for Easter Dinner.

 

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
For the Soup:
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut 1/4 inch thick
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut 1/4 inch thick
3 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups water
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 cup whole milk

For the Black-Pepper Cream:
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
2 ounces whitefish or other caviar, for garnish

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Directions:
To prepare the leeks, rinsed well to remove the sand and grit. Cut the white and pale-green parts only into 1/4-inch-thick semi-circles and set aside.

To Make the soup: Cut a round of parchment to fit inside a large pot. Melt butter in pot over medium heat. Add leeks and a pinch of salt, and cover with parchment round (this will help keep moisture in). Cook, lifting parchment to stir occasionally, until leeks are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in parsnips, potatoes, chicken stock, 2 1/2 cups water, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer gently, partially covered with lid, until parsnips are soft, about 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Working in batches, puree vegetable mixture in a blender, being sure to hold lid down. Return soup to pot, and stir in milk. Reheat soup over medium heat (do not boil).

To Make the black-pepper cream: Stir 1/4 teaspoon pepper into creme fraiche.

To Serve: Ladle soup into 8 small bowls, and top each with a dollop of black-pepper cream and 1/2 teaspoon caviar.

Cook’s Notes:
Whitefish caviar is a relatively inexpensive variety and can found at Whole Foods  Markets or specialty gourmet food markets.

The soup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. Stir in milk and rewarm over medium heat just before serving. Black-pepper cream can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.


Pumpkin Rigatoni

Like Linus of Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” comic strip….I think pumpkins are GREAT!

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And once again, plated.com has brought another amazing pasta dish, which is perfect for those “Meatless Mondays” and is affordable enough to make on your own.

Rigatoni is a popular pasta in Southern and Central Italy. Given its ridged and tubular shape, these features enables the pasta to hold just about any kind of sauce very well. Typically, a tomato based sauce is used with rigatoni, but in this dish, a pumpkin puree is the vegetable of choice for the sauce.

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Pumpkin can be tricky and heavy in sauces. If your sauce becomes too thick while cooking this dish, use the reserved pasta cooking water to thin it out. Not only will this little trick improve the consistency of your sauce, but the starchy cooking water will also help the sauce cling better to the pasta.

This dish also features Pecorino cheese, an Italian sheep’s milk cheese similar in texture to cheeseParmesan with a salty, sharp flavor, which adds a nice counterpoint to the creaminess of the pumpkin sauce and pasta.

Overall, this dish was easy to prepare in under 20 minutes. And it was only 740 calories per serving. A great dish for a light lunch on the weekends or a light dinner during the weekday. This dish is easy enough to expand the ingredients to serve more guests.

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Creamy Pumpkin Rigatoni

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Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
10 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/4 bunch chives, finely chopped
8 ounces rigatoni pasta
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese, divided
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. When water is boiling, add rigatoni ad a generous pinch of salt. Cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, then drain and set aside.DSC05600

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until sot and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, sage, and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant for about 1 more minute. Add pumpkin puree and 1/2 cup water and stir to combine.

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Simmer sauce over medium heat until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add heavy cream and half of the grated pecorino cheese and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes more. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

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Add the rigatoni to the skillet with sauce and stir to coat. Add reserved pasta cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

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To serve, divide the rigatoni evenly between 2 pasta bowls. Sprinkle over chives and remaining grated pecorino cheese.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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