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.
- 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.