Next week is the anniversary of our first real date. I'm of the opinion that oyster stew may be the single best way to bag a life-long mate.
There are one or two cute stories from that night, and perhaps a few more private tales, but I think that the deal-maker was this dish.
Oyster and Chanterelle Mushroom Stew
1 pint freshest oysters with liquid
1/4 lb cleaned chanterelles mushrooms chopped
1 sweet onion, diced
1+T sweet butter
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 generous pinch fresh grated nutmeg
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dashes Worchestershire
1-2 oz. dry sherry
dash of cayenne or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan over medium heat (I use my chef's pan) saute' the sweet onion in butter, for a moment, then add the chanterelles. Saute' until the mushrooms are tender. A sprinkle of salt and pepper helps move this along. A bit of caramelization is fine, but you don't want too much. Don't burn the butter.
Once the mushrooms and onions are soft, add the liquid from the oysters, cream, nutmeg, cayenne, and pepper, Worchestershire, and thyme. Bring to a simmer for a few moments, then add the sherry, and simmer for another minute. Add the oysters, and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. You shouldn't be able to taste much alcohol from the sherry. If you do, simmer for a moment more. Fish out the thyme sprigs. Serve in warm bowls with crusty bread and butter.
A bitter green salad with a mustard vinaigrette works well with this.
Serve with a dry, minerally white Burgundy or perhaps a Sancerre, or other dry stoney white wine.
Tips: Find the best sweet butter you can. It makes the bread work best with the stew. It's the sensual surprise that most folks don't expect. The sherry is much more key to this stew than you'd think. You can't skip it as it's an imperative note, but it can be too much if you don't cook it off enough. Be judicious with the sherry at first. If you can't find or afford chanterelles, button mushrooms are not a bad substitution. Most importantly, make sure you've got really fresh oysters. You'll be glad you did.
Oh, yeah. Remember candle light.