If March can be said to come 'in like a lion and out like a lamb', then April got a surprise re-visit.
Friday night was quite humid, and when I finally hit the hay sometime after midnight, it was still in the mid-70s, 60+% humidity, with an impressive light show in the northern sky but no real (promised) rain. Much lower temps had been promised. I had my doubts.
Shame on me! Because despite my distrust, the weatherman was redeemed, storms did arrive, I slept through most of the theatrics, and awoke to temps in the 40s. Upon reaching the farmers market in Cedar Park, I was met with a morning so blustery that outdoor cooking was, well, fruitless. It was cold, getting colder, windy, getting windier, rainy and getting rainier. The chef's demo was cancelled.
Sunday proved to be, while chillier than usual, clear, and at least a little warmer than the day before. I headed out to Mueller Lake and summoned Spring with herbs and shellfish, while accommodating a little late last taste of winter with a soul and tummy-warming stew.
The flavors are bright and crisp like spring-- the waters still cool enough to promise fresh, briny oysters and slightly cool nights still kissing greens and sweet onions to promise bright, but not bitter, herbal hints. Earthy mushrooms, each variety lending it's own unique note to a symphony-- yield layers of taste. Garnishing bowls with Cajun-spiced pecans added another texture, and a hint of peppery salt that enhanced but did not overpower the bowl. It was a big hit.
While it tastes as if the flavors have unfolded gradually in an all-day simmer, you can actually pull this together pretty quickly. Grab the ingredients, below, pick up a freshly-baked baguette and good quality unsalted butter, and maybe add a lightly dressed salad, and we'll have dinner in less than an hour.
If you like a glass of wine with your meal, I'd go with a Chardonnay or white Burgundy. If you're a fiend for bubbly, Champagne is always a safe choice as far as I'm concerned. Always.
Oyster & Mushroom Spring Stew
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 bunch spring onions with green tops, sliced
1 cup assorted mushrooms, caps and tender stems, sliced & divided
1 quart chicken stock, low sodium
1 pint oysters with liquor, divided & reserved
4 sprigs thyme
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves only, separated
1 pint whole milk
salt, cayenne & black pepper to taste
Cajun-spiced pecans, optional garnish
In a medium pot over medium high heat, melt unsalted butter. Stir in flour, 1/4 cup at a time, incorporating with butter fully before adding the next 1/4 cup. Stir constantly until it reaches a nutty fragrance and a tan color. Reduce heat and stir in onions and mushroom stems. Stir frequently, cooking until white onions are transparent and greens, limp.
Return heat to medium high. Add stock 1 cup at a time, stirring thoroughly to combine with roux. Bring to a boil to facilitate thickening. Add the liquor of oysters, only, thyme, and half of parsley. Bring all to a boil, then reduce to a rolling simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat for 5 minutes.
Remove thyme stems. With an immersion blender. puree soup. (Alternatively, use a blender or food processor, in batches, adding back to a clean pot cupfuls at a time.) Return to a low burner, add sliced mushroom caps, season with salt, cayenne, and black pepper to taste. (Alternatively, Creole seasoning can be used as a substitute or in conjunction with salt and peppers.) When soup reaches a full, rolling simmer, add oysters and milk. Cook about 3-5 minutes, or until warmed through, oysters are opaque and edges are curled. Correct seasonings again. Remove from heat.
Garnish with remaining parsley and spiced pecan pieces.
Texas Farmers Market vendors and farmers that provided food free of charge for this chef demonstration, upon request, include K&S Seafood (oysters), Hi-Fi Mycology (mushrooms), Yegua Creek Farms (Cajun-spiced pecans), and JBG Organic (onion, thyme, parsley).
Looking for another healthy version of Oyster Bisque?
For additional information about this gluten-free, low(er) fat, low(er) calorie favorite with all of the richness of its decadent parent, including local Texas Farmers’ Market vendor and farmer sources, see this link.