By Doc Lawrence
“We’re having oyster stew tonight,” my mother announced one cold Christmas Eve during my baby days in Atlanta. I saw the pint containers loaded with shucked morsels floating in a gray thick liquid and dreaded the moment this would become my dinner recalling Jonathan Swift’s warning that bravery was required for the first bite of this strange looking bivalve. Fear quickly disappeared as I courageously tasted the first spoonful of the hot broth, a preliminary step before actually eating my first oyster.
My life changing experience has been repeated many times on the night before Christmas, expanding to include wines. Early on I discovered that many observed this culinary tradition, confirming that my dear mother knew what she was doing in preparing this concoction as well as continuing a custom.
The recipe is simple, whether you use one of Emeril’s or those from other cooks. Pairing wines is another matter. Opinions are varied and personal preferences should always be honored, but there are some wines in my experience that have generally won praise when served with oysters and a few have brought me great pleasure.
Chablis, the great white wine from Burgundy, works to perfection, but tends to be pricey. (J.Sanders Cru Chablis is delicious.) There are other wines, though, that merit serving for the Christmas Eve oyster experience. Oregon Pinot Gris generally goes well with anything from the sea. King Estate Domaine Pinot Gris (2015), an Oregon delight, makes an excellent companion with your favorite oyster stew recipe.
Lara Lyn Carter, Georgia’s Emmy winning chef, provided this recipe, which came from her grandmother. It is close to what my mother served long ago.
Mimi’s Oyster Stew
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup finely chopped sautéed sweet onion
1 cup cooked diced potatoes
1 pint fresh oysters
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 quart of half and half
Melt butter over low heat. Add the oysters with the juice, salt and pepper to the butter. Cook on low until the oyster’s edges begin to curl. Add the half and half, potato and onion to the oysters and heat thoroughly but do not boil. Remove from the heat and serve hot.