Oyster stew is a southern Christmas tradition. Our Chapel Hill customer, Susan W., submitted her version of this classic shellfish dish.


1/4 lb bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery hearts

3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

14 to 16 large oysters and their liquor (or 1 pint jarred oysters)


Cayenne pepper to taste

Olive oil and butter

2/3 to 1 cup milk

1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley


Spread bacon in a soup pan and place over medium heat. Cook until browned and fat has rendered. Drain and reserve bacon. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat and put pan back on the heat.

Add a small amount of olive oil and butter as needed – I find that the bacon fat is not enough to cook the celery and onion in. Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until softened.

Add the potatoes and enough water to cover, about 2-3 cups. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, at least 15 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and, using a masher, lightly crush a few of the potatoes to thicken the chowder.

Add the oysters and oyster liquor and season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a rolling simmer until the oysters curl, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the milk (use 2/3 cup if you prefer it less rich), bring to a high simmer, and cook about 5-10 minutes.

If you have the time, let the stew sit for an hour allowing the flavors to meld, then reheat for serving.

Serve in warm bowls. Crumble bacon and sprinkle parsley on top.