Herbal Recipes for a Holiday Feast: Fresh Oyster Stew with Fennel and Chervil

Serve this hearty stew on a cold winter night.

| December/January 1994

Serves 8 to10 

This rich stew would make a hearty meal by itself for half as many people. Oysters are in season and available almost everywhere during the holidays, and are complemented in an interesting way by the subtle anise flavor of the fennel.

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 large fennel bulb, cut in small dice
• 1/2 yellow onion, cut in small dice
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 shallots, minced
• 3/4 cup white wine
• 36 oysters, shucked, reserving liquor
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
• 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 3 cups cream
• Fennel tops or fresh chervil leaves for garnish

1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, garlic, and shallots, and cook, covered, 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened but not brown.

2. Stir in the wine and continue to cook until it is reduced by half. Stir in the oyster liquor, water, and seasonings. Simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer 5 minutes longer. Stir in the oysters and poach them gently 2 to 3 minutes, or until plump. Adjust the seasoning.

3. Serve immediately, garnished with fennel tops or fresh chervil leaves.

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