A chestnut of a recipe for a Christmas oyster stew

By Jim BaileyYankee Chef logo

Oysters have been part of our Yankee holiday custom for centuries. Oysters were plentiful here on our shores and have been used in stuffing since the Puritan era. Did you know that oyster stuffing (as well as other types) was originally stuffed between the skin and meat of the turkey?

For the first hundred or so years of New England colonization, rampant debate ensued over which tasted better, loosening the skin around a fowl to stuff or simply packing stuffing into the cavity of a dressed bird. Regardless, oyster stew is a New England classic as well. I have taken this perpetual meal in itself and added even more Yankee ingredients. I think you will find it satisfying as it  deliciously beckons the past to the present.

Shoreline stew

A Christmas stew filled with Yankee goodness

1 pound large chestnuts in shells*
1 cup diced, white potato
1 cup diced, sweet potato
1 pint (about 16 ounces) raw oysters, drained
3 ounces raw Maine shrimp, drained
1 slice bacon, diced
1/2 small onion, peeled and minced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried chives
1 cup light cream
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Place chestnuts in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for 30 minutes. Remove from water and carefully slit the bottom of each with an ‘x’ on the rounded bottom of each chestnut. Place on a large, microwave safe dish and cover with a wet paper towel. Heat, on high, for 2 minutes.

Remove to let cool to room temperature before peeling and chopped.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, add the bacon and cook over medium heat until almost crispy. Add the chopped chestnuts, onion and celery and continue cooking with the bacon until celery is crisp tender, about another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the potatoes, chives and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender without falling apart, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the shrimp and oysters, cooking another 4 to 5 minutes or until the edges of the oysters start to curl. Add the cream, salt, pepper and thyme.

‘immediately. Yankee Chef book coverSchiffer Books of Pennsylvania has released Jim Bailey’s new book The Yankee Chef: Feel Good Food for Every Kitchen. It contains more than 550 traditional New England comfort-food recipes tweaked for today’s palates with hundreds of kitchen tips and food facts. The hardback book is 312 pages and contains 200 color images. Its ISBN is 978-0-7643-4191-5 and the cost is $34.99. The book can be ordered through Misty Valley Books, 802-875-3400.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeThe Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at theyankeechef@aol.com.

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