First Course

Grandad’s Oyster and Artichoke Stew

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This dish combines two of my favorite things – oysters and artichokes. My grandfather used to serve this as a starter for any special occasion, and I have never attempted to make it myself until now, since it is often challenging to make Grandad’s staples as good as I remember them (I have tried his Grits and Grillades several times now and they are not quite the same). This dish is rich, but makes a perfect starter when served in small ramekins, especially in winter months.

If you live and Louisiana and can buy pints of freshly shucked oysters, it makes this recipe a lot easier. I couldn’t find those in Amsterdam, so I got two dozen fresh oysters to shuck, and supplemented with another dozen large frozen oysters from the Asian grocer. The frozen oysters doubled as blocks of ice to keep the rest of the oysters chilled. The key to this recipe is getting as much oyster and artichoke flavor – so make sure to save all of the oyster juices, and get as much meat off of the artichokes as you can.

It is best to make this recipe a day ahead of time, and finish in the oven right before serving.

Oyster and Artichoke Stew, 12 appetizer servings

Ingredients

6 artichokes, boiled and cooking liquid reserved

3 dozen oysters, shucked and all liquid reserved (If the oysters are small, you may want to throw in another dozen).

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup flour

1 3/4 cup finely chopped onions

10 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. thyme

2 lemons, one sliced and the other for juice

1/4 cup chopped parsley

bread crumbs

Steps

Prepare the artichokes: Remove the leaves, scraping as much of the meat off as you can. This part is a bit labor intensive but the shaved artichoke meat adds a lot of texture and flavor. Remove the choke, and cut the heart into quarters.

Soak the oysters and in about 2 cups of cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain, and reserve this liquid as well. If your oysters are large, chop into bite-size pieces. Otherwise, leave whole.

Melt the butter in large Dutch oven. Add the flour, and stir constantly over medium heat to make a quick, light brown roux. When the butter begins to brown (after about 10 minutes) add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the onions are softened. Add the thyme, reserved artichoke scrapings, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the reserved oyster liquid, as well as the water used to soak the oysters. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes. The stew will be very thick at this point, so add the reserved artichoke water as needed. Season with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice as needed.

Add all of the oysters, and the chopped parsley, and cook another 10 minutes over medium heat.

When ready to serve, place the artichoke hearts in the bottom of 12 ramekins. Pour the stew over the artichokes, top with breadcrumbs, and heat in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown. Garnish with lemon slides and additional parsley.

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