Why It Works
- The anise flavor of fennel infuses the whole-milk base and works wonderfully with the oysters.
- Whole milk and butter make an oyster stew that's just rich enough without being heavy.
A simple, quick, and easy soup, this classic oyster stew is flecked with droplets of golden butter and flavored with aromatic vegetables, whole milk, and plenty of briny, fat oysters.
How to Shuck an Oyster
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (42 grams)
- 2 medium shallots, finely diced (about 50 grams)
- 1/2 medium head fennel, finely diced (about 50 grams) (see note)
- 1 large stalk celery, finely diced (about 50 grams)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 10 grams)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 quart (950 milliliters) whole milk
- 2 dozen oysters, shucked, liquor reserved (about 1 1/2 cups; 350 grams) (see note)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Minced parsley, chives, tarragon, and/or fennel fronds, for garnish
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots, fennel, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add thyme or bay leaf.
Add milk and bring to a bare simmer. Add oysters and their liquor and return to a bare simmer; adjust heat as necessary to prevent boiling. Simmer until oysters are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Discard thyme or bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, garnish with herbs, and serve.
If you don't have fennel, you can substitute 3 tablespoons of Pernod, added just before the milk. If you don't want to shuck your own oysters, feel free to use pre-shucked fresh ones (along with their liquor) from your fishmonger.