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- Dan Payton
Shuck Shack's Oystah Chowdah
Find it at 520 E. Grayson St., (210) 236-7422, shuckshack.com
A brief rant: Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, livin' la vida locavore was simply what we did — long before the term became overused. Gardens were planted, wild mushrooms were gathered ... and, with attention to tide charts, clams were dug from a bay no more than 15 minutes away. Oysters we would often pick from rocks and toss onto a driftwood fire to pop open. But when my mother needed more than we could easily harvest, the local oyster farm was there to oblige: freshness assured, oyster stew on its way.
Chowdah? Nevah? We were Northwest, not Down East. But Jason Dady's recipe is amazingly close to my mother's nonetheless. It's buttery, it's not tricked out with unnecessary ingredients (except maybe bell pepper), and it tastes of oyster, plain and simple. Dady also does an orthographically unaffected, milk-based clam chowder. Here, there are clams in the shell, there is lots of smoky bacon, and the result is really more bacon-y than, er, clam-y. Yet it's still good. Below is a recipe, adapted from Emeril Lagasse, that proves that East Coast, West Coast, Third Coast, a simple recipe spans shores.
- 4 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup chopped white onion
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 2 cups milk
- 2 dozen oysters, shucked and with liquor reserved
- (feel free to use a jar of fresh Gulf oysters)
- Salt, to taste
- Fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste
- Cayenne, to taste (we never used cayenne, but you should)
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic (optional, but recommended)
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
In a large sauté pan, melt the 4 tablespoons butter, stir in the flour and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add onions and celery and cook two minutes more. Stir in the milk and the oyster liquid. Season with salt, a few grinds black pepper and a whisper of cayenne. Bring the liquid up to simmer and keep it there 3 to 4 minutes. Add oysters, garlic and parsley, bring back to a simmer and cook until the oysters curl at the edges — 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, remove from heat immediately and ladle into 4 soup bowls. Some more parsley sprinkled on top wouldn’t hurt.