To prepare oysters, you can steam them, fry them, serve them raw, simmer them in a stew, bake them, or broil them.
If you eat oysters Rockefeller, you’ll feel like a buttoned-up businessperson. If you eat them on the half shell, however, without all the trappings of the former, you’ll feel like a member of the working class.
The oyster is versatile and appropriate for any occasion. But it’s especially appropriate in the winter, when the bounty that grows in North Carolina’s soil has been harvested; when the farmers markets have closed down for the season; and when, even though you know all that, you still crave the taste of something fresh from the earth.
So appropriate are oysters for winter, that the Junior League of Wilmington suggests you eat some in January. In their cookbook, Seaboard to Sideboard Entertains, each chapter represents a month of the year, and the first chapter, January, includes recipes for a classic New Year oyster roast.
One of the recipes in that chapter is from Juliet Lee, a Junior League member and a professor at Cape Fear Community College. She contributed a family favorite, Wrightsville Beach oyster stew.
The recipe originated in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina, where Lee’s grandmother lived. When Lee moved to Wilmington 15 years ago, she began a tradition of making the stew the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the day of Wrightsville Beach’s annual Holiday Flotilla. Lee cooks the oyster stew, packs it up for a picnic, and gathers her family to drive the short distance from Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach, where they park their car to eat oyster stew and watch boats decked in Christmas lights float by.
From that time on through the winter, Lee prepares a pot of oyster stew whenever she wants to eat something that tastes fresh and makes her feel warm and comfortable — the way the perfect oyster should make you feel, she says.
The cold that descends upon North Carolina this month calls for oysters. However you prepare them is your choice. Lee shares her recipe here, in the hope that you’ll try her tradition.
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