Cooked Oyster Season: Big Easy Erster and Artichoke Soup

The weather has turned warm and I have stopped eating raw oysters. But the oyster season isn't over yet. I bought a gallon of shucked oysters from Croatian oysterman Misho Ivic down in San Leon and I am cooking up a storm with them. Go buy yourself a couple of pints of shucked oysters and see for yourself. Just make sure you know what kind of oysters you are buying. Some grocery stores in Texas sell shucked Pacific oysters and some sell Gulf oysters. Pacific oysters are fine, but Gulf oysters are sweeter.

So far I've had oysters, bacon and eggs for breakfast, oyster stew for a late night snack and fried oysters on toast with remoulade for lunch. But the best thing I've cooked lately by a long shot was a big pot of New Orleans-style oyster and artichoke soup. I made it for company and they were duly impressed. I served it with crusty bread and a Trimbach Gewurtraminer chilled extra cold. I doused the soup with an extra shot of really good sherry before I put it on the table.

Here's the recipe:

Oyster and Artichoke Soup

The artichoke is one of those Italian favorites that was introduced to the French by Catherine de Medici in 1633. Whether the combination of oysters and artichokes originated in Italy, France, or Louisiana isn't clear. Chef Warren LeRuth is credited with making this one of the most popular soups in New Orleans.

4 large artichokes 1 lemon, cut in half Stick of butter 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/2 cup chopped celery 3 tablespoons flour 1 cup chicken stock ¼ cup chopped parsley ¼ cup chopped green onions ½ teaspoon dried oregano ½ teaspoon dried thyme 1 quart fresh oysters, shucked 1 pint heavy cream Half a cup of Sherry wine

Cook the artichokes in boiling water with lemon until tender. Allow the artichokes to cool. Separate the artichoke leaves and use a teaspoon to scrape the meat off the leaves into a small bowl, Cut the hearts into half-inch dice.

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion and celery until tender, about ten minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and stir. Cook the flour and vegetables for a couple of minutes, but do not allow to brown. Add the chicken stock a little at a time stirring to incorporate the flour, and reduce heat to low. Add the artichokes to the soup and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Just before serving, add the parsley, green onions, herbs and oysters to the soup and let simmer just until the edges of the oysters curl, about three minutes. Stir in the cream and cook until heated through, but do allow not boil.

Serve immediately. Serves six grateful guests.

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