George Cowan's Oyster Stew

December 11, 2015
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 8 bowls
Author Notes

Stew is a funny name for my grandpa's traditional Christmas Eve soup, since it's just whole milk, flavored with chopped fresh oysters, plus butter, pepper, and celery salt swirling across the top. It's a bit like an oyster pan roast or chowder, but barer in bones. There's no room to hide—so the better and fresher your oysters, the better it all will taste. Adapted slightly from my parents' website, The Online Cookbook. —Kristen Miglore

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 2 to 3 8-ounce jars of fresh oysters (24 to 36 oysters, shucked)
  • 1 cube butter
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or use more celery salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat milk in double boiler (or just on low heat).
  2. Dice oysters and place in stew pan with 1 cup water, butter, celery salt, salt, and pepper.
  3. Bring to simmer and simmer gently for seven minutes.
  4. Add oyster mixture to milk in double boiler.
  5. Simmer gently at least two hours. The longer it simmers, the more flavorful it is, or if it sets overnight it becomes more flavorful. Stir well and season to taste.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Chef Lisa
    Chef Lisa
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
  • Jim Ball
    Jim Ball
  • YvesNY

5 Reviews

Jim B. January 21, 2024
I feasted on my Dad's Christmas Eve oyster stew for years. It was very similar to this, and delicious. It eventually evolved, however, into the following. I personally prefer it to over the fully cooked oysters in this recipe; oysters poached whole in milk preserves their fresh plumpness. I learned that trick at the Athenian Room at the Pike Street Market in Seattle.

8 cups milk (1/2 gallon)
4 Tablespoons butter
3 stalks celery diced
1 -2 shallots
1/2 cup chopped parsley
a few dashes Tabasco
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add celery and shallots and 1/2 of the parsley. Sweat until soft. Add milk and butter. Allow to heat thoroughly, but do not allow to come to boil. (I judge it by watching until the butter is melted.) When milk and butter are hot but not boiling (smiling), add the oysters and their liquor and Tabasco. Poach the oysters at this temp for about 2 minutes. Serve with Oyster Crackers and parsley, along side celery sticks. And a good cognac.
YvesNY October 30, 2016
You don't want to cook oysters that long! Kills the taste. Make a creamy concoction with most of them, then add fresh schucked oysters when you serve.
Chef L. December 28, 2015
One of my favorites! We always put chopped celery vs celery salt. Adding a little bit of texture that the oyster appreciates. Yum!
Jason December 23, 2015
Don't your oysters get rubbery cooking that long?
Kristen M. December 23, 2015
They definitely would if you kept it at a boil, but my family puts it on the lowest possible simmer setting, so bubbles barely even break the surface.