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Traditional Oyster Stew

Oysters in a traditional bowl of oyster stew, made with milk, butter and cream.
Laura McCandlish for NPR

I prefer to saute oysters in butter first, until they curl. Some recipes say to scald the milk in a double-broiler so it doesn't scorch. I don't bother, just warming the milk cautiously instead, in a thick-bottomed pan.

For a heavier soup, use less milk and more cream. Consider garnishing the soup with chopped parsley or chives. This is my imperfect ode to the stew I had at Mamma Zu.

Makes 8 servings as a soup course, or 4 as a main dish

1 pint shucked extra-small oysters, liquor reserved

1/2 cup heavy cream

1-1/2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Celery salt, to taste

2 ounces sliced pancetta

1-1/2 teaspoons ground chipotle pepper (or crushed red pepper)

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, bring the reserved oyster liquor to a boil and skim off the foam. Add cream, milk, butter and celery salt to taste, and gently simmer.

At the same time, fry pancetta until grease coats the saute pan. Add the crushed pepper and drained oysters, sizzling them until just curled, being careful not to overcook. Add the oysters to hot broth, removing the pancetta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup and at least two oysters into each bowl. Serve immediately, with oyster crackers or crusty bread.

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