Old-Style Oyster Stew

This is the oyster stew that was once common in the casual seafood restaurants, especially around West End. Like West End it self–which was totally destroyed by Hurricane Katrina–this dish is little more than a memory. But it’s a very good memory, and one we can revive in our own kitchens. The element that makes the biggest difference is the oyster water, which you can get from your oyster dealer if you give a little advance notice.


  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 Tbs. chopped onion
  • 1 Tbs. chopped celery
  • 1 quart oyster water, strained well
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried
  • 3 dozen oysters
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Salt to taste

1. In a saucepan, heat the butter and sauté the onions and celery until tender.

2. Add oyster water, half-and-half, and peppercorns. Bring to a very light simmer and cook slowly for fifteen minutes.

3. Add oysters and green onions, and cook for another three to five minutes, until the oysters are plumped up and the edges are curly. Add salt to taste (you may not need any, depending on the saltiness of the oysters and oyster water).

Serves four.

8 Readers Commented

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  1. SCamp on December 31, 2013

    I don’t know if we can get oyster water in dallas. Is there a suitable alternative?

    • Tom Fitzmorris on December 31, 2013

      Just plain water would work, but not as well. Seafood stock would be better (shrimp, crab, or fish). In a pinch, clam juice–although I wouldn’t make a special trip for that.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

    • ken on November 2, 2014

      I don’t know if you solved the oyster water dilemma yet, but when you go the the supermarket the oysters come in a glass or plastic container with the “oyster water” in the container.
      Yet, if you go to a seafood market and the person on the other side has to “fish” them ot of a large bucket, you can ask for extra oyster water.

  2. Johnette on December 31, 2013

    Some folks will have an attack when I propose this, but, you can make am oyster stock-just like any other stock. Chopped fresh oysters, onion, celery, thyme (all in small quantities), and water. Add about 1/4-1/2 tsp cornstarch for a bit of body. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, strain. It works.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on January 1, 2014

      I see nothing wrong with this. Good use of small or irregular oysters.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  3. oyster on January 2, 2014

    When speaking of oyster water, are you talking about the (what I call the liquor) that comes from the oyster shell when shucking? If you purchase (shucked) oysters from quality seafood in Biloxi, they come with the oyster juice or (the liquor).

  4. oyster on January 2, 2014

    I wash oysters in cold water; put them in container with fresh water; let them sit in fridge. This water serves as my oyster liquor.

  5. oyster on January 6, 2014

    I never wash oysters. But to each his own.