A Chesapeake Bay Thanksgiving

Northern Neck chefs share hearty oyster recipes for your holiday table.

If you’ve taken a trip to the Northern Neck you know you can spend an entire day there eating nothing but oysters. This bounty of bivalves means local chefs have gotten creative in their preparation, and here a few of our favorites share some of their tastiest recipes.

Oyster Pot Pie

William Barnhardt, Willaby’s Cafe, White Stone, Willabys.com

1 quart fresh oysters, shucked and undrained
4 slices thick bacon, diced
1 ½ cups potato, diced
1 stick butter
1 cup fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup fresh carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup dry Sherry
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
½ package (8.5 ounces) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain oysters, reserving 1 ½ cups oyster liquor. Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Reserve three tablespoons bacon grease. Boil potatoes just until a fork enters easily. Set aside. Add bacon grease, butter, mushrooms, carrot, onion and celery to pot. Sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic and lemon juice and cook one minute. Add sherry and cook two minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring constantly with whisk, one minute. Stir in cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, Old Bay and reserved oyster liquor and bring to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in oysters and bacon. Spoon mixture into six lightly greased 12-ounce French onion soup bowls. Cut pastry sheets into circles slightly larger than the bowl, and place on top of filling in each bowl. Whisk together egg and one tablespoon water and brush mixture over pastry.

Bake on lower oven rack 30-35 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

Oyster Stew

Bryan Byrd, Byrd’s Seafood Co., Irvington, ByrdsSeafood.com

2 cups sweet vidalia onions, chopped
½ pound freshly sliced Red Eye country ham, chopped
olive oil
2 sticks butter
1 quart fresh wild caught Rappahannock River oysters, shucked
½ gallon half and half
2 cups freshly cooked collard greens (or 1 16-ounce can pre-cooked)
sea salt
cracked pepper

Sauté the onions and ham in olive oil until the onions are translucent, then set aside. Melt butter slowly in a large dutch oven or saucepan. Add the oysters and cook until the edges start to curl. As the oysters are cooking, slowly add the half and half, stirring lightly. Add the collard greens, ham and onions. Add sea salt and cracked pepper to taste.

Serves 4

Stuffin Muffin

Pete Woods, Merroir, Topping, RROysters.com

1 12-ounce bag Pepperidge Farm Sage and Onion dried stuffing
2 cups chicken stock
6 ribs celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
⅓-½ pound bacon, diced
½ cup butter
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 pint oysters

Preheat griddle to 325 degrees. Place dried stuffing mix in a large bowl with parmesan cheese and oysters. With your hands, break up the oysters with the bread cubes, then set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add bacon and sauté for 5-6 minutes over medium heat. Add celery and onions, and sauté 5 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and mix thoroughly. Add chicken stock. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Add to bread cube and oyster mix and mix thoroughly. Scoop into 5-ounce patties and cook on griddle 3-5 minutes per side or until hot throughout.

For the sauce:
⅓-½ pound bacon, diced
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
6 scallions, finely sliced

In a medium saucepan, sauté bacon over medium heat 5 minutes to render the fat. Add flour and stir until pasty. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chicken stock and mix thoroughly. Turn heat down and simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring. Add cream and bring to a low simmer, still stirring. Remove from heat and add scallions and peppercorns. Spoon sauce over muffins to serve.

Serves 10

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