Ashley Christensen’s Oyster Stew
A hearty stew served with twice-fried Saltine crackers
“The secret to this rich, indulgent stew is only partially in the cream. Oysters are pureed into the base, which connects their briny salinity to the rest of the ingredients and naturally thickens the soup. It builds an undeniably oystery backbone. The turnips provide a sharp, wasabi-like heat that brings the luxurious richness of the soup back into balance. I’ve always loved the oyster crackers that come alongside a bowl of chowder. The fried saltines operate along the same principle, but are even more delicious.” —Chef Ashley Christensen
Oyster Stew with Twice-Fried Saltines and Charred Turnip Relish
From Ashley Christensen’s Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner
Charred Turnip Relish
1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
4 ounces turnip greens
1 tablespoon minced shallot
Zest of ½ lemon
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups shucked oysters in their liquid (about 30 oysters)
2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (about 1 medium onion)
2 cups thinly sliced fennel (about 1 bulb)
2 cups diced turnip (about 2 small turnips)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
A large sachet (8 medium thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 2 cloves garlic, and 2 teaspoons black peppercorns)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 cup white wine
1 cup dry vermouth
6 cups heavy cream
1 cup Dijon mustard
Neutral vegetable oil, for frying
1 sleeve saltines
To make the relish, add the oil to a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the greens and cook, flipping the leaves occasionally, until they have a nice sear on them, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and transfer to a cutting board or baking sheet to cool. Once cool, finely chop the greens and place in a medium bowl. Fold in the shallot and lemon zest, then mix in the olive oil. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Place the oysters in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and drain well.
Place a large saucepot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onions, fennel, turnip, and garlic. Reduce the heat and sweat until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the sachet and salt. Stir until you can smell the herbs in the sachet.
Add the white wine and vermouth and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower to a simmer and reduce the liquid by half. Add 1 cup of the drained oysters, the juice that has collected in the bowl, the cream, and the mustard. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 10 minutes. Discard the sachet.
While the stew is simmering, make the saltines. Line a plate with paper towels. Heat ½ inch of oil in a skillet over high heat. When the oil reaches 325°F on a deep-fry thermometer, add the saltines in batches of 6 crackers and fry, turning frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until tanned. Transfer to the plate and reserve.
Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the stew mixture until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and return the liquid to the pot. (You can prepare the stew up to this step up to 1 day before.) Place over medium heat; add the remaining drained oysters and stir, cooking for just 1 or 2 minutes more to warm the oysters. Ladle into bowls and serve with the twice-fried saltines broken up over the top and a dollop of relish.
Reprinted with permission from Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen, copyright © 2016. Photography by Johnny Autry. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.