Robert Stehling (right), chef-owner of Hominy Grill, uses oysters in a simple yet satisfying stew. Photographs by Leann Cannon
December 21, 2011
Treat your holiday guests to Robert Stehling’s succulent brown oyster stew
written by Kinsey Gidick
Historically, oyster stew was a poor man’s meal. But, at the hands of chef Robert Stehling, this is a pauper’s plate no more. The Hominy Grill owner serves Charleston oysters in a sherry and cream soup that’s as warm and inviting as a fireside seat on a chilly winter night.
Stehling picked up the recipe while working at Chapel Hill’s Crook’s Corner before opening Hominy in 1996. The James Beard Award-winning chef says that with a cook time of only 15 minutes, it makes for an easy holiday dish. To dazzle your own kith and kin, start by cooking five slices of bacon for garnish. “Then turn up the heat and toss in your onions,” explains Stehling. “Their caramelization gives the stew its color and flavor.” Add garlic to the pan, but don’t let it brown, he warns, as that can throw off the flavor profile. “You’ll know the oysters are poached when the sides curl up,” the chef notes. When you’re ready to eat, scoop a hearty serving of Carolina Gold rice into the center of each bowl. Garnish with chives and bacon, and Santa might give up cookies for just a spoonful.
Brown Oyster Stew (Serves 4)
5 slices bacon, diced
2 cups diced yellow onion
4 cups chopped mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 cups stock, fish or chicken
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup dry sherry
1 pint oysters, shucked and liquor reserved
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
3 cups cooked white rice, Carolina Gold preferred
2 Tbs. fresh chives
In a large saucepan, render bacon on low heat. Remove bacon and reserve for garnish. Turn up heat and add onions. Sauté until golden brown. Add mushrooms to same pan and sauté until brown. Stir garlic into pan, but do not let it brown. Add stock and cream to pan and simmer for 10 minutes on low heat, then bring to a boil. Add sherry and oyster liquor. Season with salt and peppers. Bring stew to simmer and stir in oysters. Poach until lips curl. Serve in bowl with rice and garnish with fresh chives and bacon.