Cajun Oyster Stew

Cajun oyster stew

Cajun oyster stew

There are two oyster stews from Louisiana, Cajun-style and Creole.  The difference is that Creole cooking is typical of the city, that is, New Orleans and it is made with cream and milk.  Cajun-style is a country-style, that is, Bayou-style made not with cream but with a dark brown  roux.  This recipe is adapted from one by Louisiana Chef John Folse of Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant in Donaldsonville, Louisiana.  Chef Folse argues that the original oyster stew was made with a brown roux and not cream or milk which was not found in New Orleans recipes from the early 1700s after the founding of the town.  This makes sense because it was later immigrants, the Germans, who brought more dairy and sausage-making.  You will need about two quarts of oyster liquid for this recipe and your two to four dozen oysters will not provide that amount.  Therefore you must buy the oyster liquid or make some by blending about 8 oysters with 6 to 7 cups of water in a blender.  Louisiana oysters are Crassostrea virginica, the most common American oyster.  In this recipe, I’ve used Hood Canal oysters from Washington State, Crassostrea gigas, an oyster originally from Japan, also called the Pacific oyster, that are very large and meaty.  They are seeded in the Pacific Northwest and often found sold already shucked and jarred.  The thirty Hood Canal oysters called for should give you 3 ½ to 4 cups of shucked oysters.  Making the dark brown roux is a bit tricky so pay attention to the instructions. Vols-au-vent pastry shells can be found frozen in supermarkets.
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
2 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s)

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 quarts oyster liquid or 7 ½ cups water blended with 8 oysters

6 vol-au-vents puff pastry shells, defrosted

30 Hood Canal (Pacific) shucked oysters, juice saved or 72 oysters in the shell, shucked, juice strained and saved
1 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a heavy flameproof casserole, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly without stopping, until a dark brown roux is achieved, 7 ½ minutes.  At about the 5 minute mark the roux will look like caramel.  During the last minute of cooking as the roux turns dark brown, like chocolate, stir faster otherwise it will burn, then immediately add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, 4 minutes. Slowly pour in the oyster liquid and whisk until well blended, reduce the heat to low and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and prepare the vol-au-vents puff pastry shells according to the package instructions and set aside, but keep warm once they’re baked.

3. Add the oysters and cook until their edges have curled up, 6 to 8 minutes.  Garnish with the scallions and parsley then season with salt and pepper.  Place a vol-au-vent shell in a bowl and ladle a generous serving of oyster stew into center of patty shell and surrounding it and serve.

Makes 6 servings

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