Years ago Jon and I were enjoying dinner at one of the finer establishments here on the island. The couple sitting behind us were visiting the area – and not yet acquainted with oyster stew when they saw it on the menu. When they asked the waitress what exactly it entailed, she replied in a thick Chincoteague accent with “Honey – it’s oysters. With a little bit of milk in it”…

Jon and I both laughed – because seriously, how could you not know what it was? And also, her reply was so cut and dry – and perfectly summed up oyster stew. I still think about it and chuckle every time I see it on the menu!

Last week the good folks at Cherrystone Aqua Farms were kind enough to send me a box full of oysters and clams. They’re started shipping these Eastern Shore of Virginia delights all over the country recently, so if any of my friends are looking for a taste check them out. I’m picky about my bivalves, and I can’t rave enough about everything that they offer.

Of course we love to enjoy them as is on the half shell, that happened approximately three minutes after the box arrivied. But I wanted to make something I could take a photo of and share with you guys. Not that photos of just oysters aren’t pretty…I love those too, obvi.

But, I’ve been needing to get more oyster recipes up. And, with being stuck at home with nothing to do besides cook – it was the perfect opportunity to get another one under the belt here at Tide & Thyme!

We had rainy weather for most of the weekend, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity for a batch of oyster stew. Ashamed I didn’t have this on the blog yet, as it’s one of the most Eastern Shore-y of all Eastern Shore dishes. It’s simple, quick, comforting and very filling.

Just like everything else, everyone  has their favorite way of preparing it. I like to use heavy cream instead of milk, because why not? I love the combination of the rich cream and the plump briny oysters. I also add some minced celery, which is pretty conventional – and some minced shallot, which isn’t.

Don’t be afraid to make it your own, just don’t go too crazy. You want to let the flavor of the oyster shine in this simple stew!

 

I don’t use my InstantPot as often as I should. I break it out once a week or two, usually for chicken stock from my leftover bones. I’ve had it for a couple of years now, kind of buying it just to see what all the fuss was about – but being pleasantly surprised by the power it wielded. The saute function has quite a  bit of gumption, and you can get a pretty decent sear on a hunk of meat.

Searing your proteins in the same pan you cook your dish in yields a TON of flavor, that goes right back into whatever it is you’re making. In this case it made for one of the most incredible pan sauces I’ve had in my life. That’s another nice perk too – you can thicken your sauce right in the same pan as well. Who doesn’t love one less dish to wash?

I’d pinned this method for a cheap, lean cut of beef in the Instant Pot a couple of years ago. Scoffing at the idea that a rare roast could be attained in a pressure cooker! It got buried in my pins, and hadn’t given it a thought until I came across a nice sirloin roast marked down at my grocery store last week. For $9 I figured I could take a gamble…

Made it at lunchtime one day, thinking I could just slice it and use it for roast beef sandwiches for lunches. It ended up turning out so good we ate it for dinner, popping it in the oven for a few minutes to reheat. Everyone loved it. And it really couldn’t be any easier or more foolproof.

A quick sear on all sides. A few additions of onions, garlic, and spices. Beef broth. Then cook under pressure for 3 minutes, and let the pressure release naturally for 30 minutes. I then added some red wine to the pan drippings, along with a little cornstarch to thicken. Served it over the thinly sliced beef along with some roasted reds and asparagus. One of the best meals we’ve had in a long time! It was honestly just as good as prime rib, for about one quarter of the price and time involved in preparing it.

I used a 3 pound roast, and it was the perfect hair scant of medium-rare. If you want your roast more well done, or it’s larger – you can continue cooking by recovering and keeping InstantPot on warm for more time. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, get one. They’re cheap and are worth their weight in gold when it comes to worrying about the doneness of things.

We had our first snow fall on Chincoteague last night. It wasn’t much – but was enough to get the kids out of school for the day, and enough to make a batch of snow cream for breakfast. I made an affogato with mine (I got a new espresso machine a couple weeks ago, y’all!), and it was pretty much life changing.

So now that we’ve gotten our dose of snow, I’m really ready for the warmer days ahead. Ready to have my playlist be whole again, for one. I have to remove quite a few songs that I just can’t listen to in the winter, without bawling like a baby…

This year I’ve been in better spirits due to our get-together’s we’ve had with the LBC (Little Beach Crew) in the off-season. Friends who are like family, that we spend so many glorious boat days with in the summer.  And while that’s been great, it’s safe to say that we’re all ready to resume our Sunday suppers out on the water!

We usually plan out our meal via Facebook chat during the week, everyone bringing something. This broccoli salad was something I always begged Rebecca to bring. Her sister Jessica also makes it as well, but I’m usually begging her to bring cookies…

I happily ate this broccoli salad, week after week, month after month. Always squirreling away any leftovers into our cooler, so that I could enjoy another round later – after the boat was out of the water and boys were in bed. Figure that’s better than the cookies, right? There are never any of those leftover, by the way.

Everyone has their own riff on broccoli salad – but for me this one will always win. Slightly crunchy broccoli, crisp bacon, and chunks of cheddar are the centerpieces. And the dressing couldn’t get easier: mayo (I substitute in some Greek yogurt), a sprinkle of sugar, and a splash of vinegar. It’s not QUITE as good as it is out on the boat, but everything always tastes better outside anyway.

So until the LBC is pulling into our “one particular harbor” – I’ll be getting by with my broccoli salad and Buffett ballads. Which really isn’t all that much different than summer anyway, I suppose. Stay warm, friends!

It’s always so hard to see summer go. If you’ve been keeping up with me on Insta, you know that it was a crazy whirlwind couple of months spent in the sun and on the water. Our “Flat Bottomed Girl” got quite a few more nautical miles under her belt,  and I cooked and shared all kinds of goodness with friends (and strangers!) out at our local hangout of Little Beach, on neighboring Assateague Island.

Boatside Bistro was in full effect, y’all! I find myself cooking on the boat more than I do in my kitchen from the months of May – September.  I think the pinnacle was catching fish offshore, cleaning and fileting them on the boat, then turning into fish tacos and enjoying on the beach. However, we had alot of great meals out there this season, and which of them was the best is still a topic of debate…

At any rate, the days have finally started to turn brisk. And while we must say goodbye to some things that fill our heart and soul, there are always others to look forward to. Like watching the vibrant green marsh fade into a rich gold hue – with the occasional burst of salicornia in the mix. It’s an edible plant that grows in abundance in our marshes here on the island, appearing green in the summer months and then turning a vibrant red hue in autumn. It’s crunchy, and briny, and tastes of the sea. Not to mention it’s beautiful!

I have fun harvesting it and coming up with new ideas how to use it. Vodka infusion is a favorite (can you say pickle shot, y’all?), adding it to salads, or chopping and adding to pimento cheese. A few weeks ago I helped harvest a haul to brew a stout with at Black Narrows Brewing, which was absolutely delicious!

It just so happened that I had a bunch of beans after the beer release at the brewery, which I then took to the Chincoteague Oyster Festival with me the next day – and whipped up this super simple salicornia mignonette…

A “mignonette” is just fancy French term for a vinegar sauce that is traditionally served with oysters. I used a red wine vinegar, some chopped shallot, and threw in some chopped salicornia. Talk about tasting the “salt life” – was a hit all around. And I felt so fancy coming up with it!

Which brings me to something else we have to look forward to in the fall and winter months – oyster season! What do you guys look forward to the most?

Oysters with Salicornia Mignonette

1 dozen oysters, on the half shell
crushed ice
lemon wedges

For the mignonette:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely minced
2 Tbsp chopped salicornia (about 15 “bean” stalks)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl or ramekin. Mix to combine. Let sit for 20 minutes to let the flavors mingle and meld together.

Meanwhile, place the crushed ice in the bottom of a shallow serving dish. Carefully lay the oysters on top of the ice for serving.

Serve the mignonette alongside the oysters with the lemon wedges.