OYSTER, POTATO & LEEK SOUP
Recipe from Sober Celebrations
Here, the classic leek and potato soup combines with creamy oyster stew to become the perfect, soothingly rich start to your Christmas dinner. One of the great things about this recipe is its adaptability to likes and dislikes - since the potato-and-leek base is made first, kids and adults who shun oysters can be served this soup "oysterless." It can even be turned into a mock chowder by replacing the oysters with clams, but I much prefer the version below. Give it a try and don't be surprised if you win over some supposed non-oyster-eating folks with the first spoonful!
If shucking oysters is not your thing, solicit the help of your fishmonger, who can shuck them for you and retain the precious liquor (simply the name for the oyster juices - no alcohol involved). You can also sometimes find containers of pre-shucked oysters in their liquid, although they're not always the "cream of the crop." It's best to choose small ones, sometimes referred to as "cocktails," but "selects" are just as good. Ask the people behind the fish counter for their expert opinion and tell them what you're using the oysters for. They'll be more than happy to oblige.
Make the base a day or two ahead and reheat it over a very low flame, whisking to encourage a smooth consistency Add the prepared oysters just before serving, ladle into warmed soup bowls, and don't forget to pass around the bowl of oyster crackers.
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 medium-size leeks (white part only), ends trimmed, washed well, and chopped
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 4 cups water
• 4 medium-size russet potatoes, peeled and diced
• 2 cups half-and-half
• 1 1/2 cups shucked small oysters, liquor reserved
• Dash Tabasco® sauce
• Oyster crackers
1. In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat, add the leeks, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to prevent browning, if necessary
2. Add the water and potatoes, bring to a simmer, and allow to cook uncovered until the potatoes are fork-tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half. Puree in batches in a blender until smooth. You may stop at this point, pour the soup into containers, and chill it until you're ready to use it. Otherwise, pour the soup into a clean saucepan, cover, and keep warm over very low heat.
3. To prepare the oysters, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a nonstick skillet, add the oysters with '^ cup of their reserved liquid, and cook until just the edges of the oysters begin to curl, about 4 minutes. Transfer them to the saucepan containing the soup base, stir well, and allow to cook a further 5 minutes over low heat. Add the Tabasco® sauce, taste for the addition of salt, and serve immediately with oyster crackers.