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St. Mary's County Oyster Stew

Serves 8 to 10

1/4 pound sliced bacon
1 cup finely minced onion
1 cup finely minced celery
2 quarts half-and-half
1 quart shucked oysters, with liquor
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and white pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Chesapeake seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon butter

Chill the bacon in the freezer for 20 minutes, and then slice into thin strips. In a heavy-bottomed pan, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted utensil to paper towels to drain. Leave the bacon drippings in the pan. Add the onion and celery and cook in the bacon fat, stirring often, for about 4 to 5 minutes.

In a separate pan, heat the Half-and-half until quite hot.

Heat the oysters with their liquor in a separate pan, just until the edges begin to curl. Immediately drain the liquor into the hot half-and-half. Cover the oysters and set aside.

Blend the flour into the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes.

Slowly stir the hot half-and-half mixture into the vegetable mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt, white pepper, and cayenne, Chesapeake Bay seasoning, and Worcestershire.

To serve, pour stew into a tureen or bowl, add the oysters and stir. Drop the butter in the center and sprinkle with cayenne. Ladle into bowls and crumble the reserved bacon over the top.

Adapted from Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields
Broadway Books 1998


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