Fresh Oyster Soup the Alton Brown Way

Well, it’s time to get that massive burger & small bun off the top of the blog, before any more Shiite Paleos get the vapors over it.

Generally, here’s how I’ve always preferred my shellfish in terms of prepared dishes (not just broiled lobster or boiled / steamed crab):

  • Lobster or clam bisque
  • Raw oysters on the half shell with red wine vinegar and chopped shallot
  • Mussels, either in a white wine / chicken broth with shallot / garlic, or any of the Italian versions using tomatoes
  • Clams in a butter / garlicy deal, or in a chowder

But yesterday I went to a market a few minutes from home and obtained fresh oysters from the beds up at Pt. Reyes, local.

IMG 1282
Oysters in their own “liquor”

Every now and then we do a family camping trip up in Olema, just a mile away from Pt. Reyes Station, and here’s how that goes in pictures, once we hit the oyster beds. I’ve had oyster stew a number of times but I wanted to do a soup, analogous to a lobster or crab bisque.

I found Alton Brown’s rendition. From much experience, you can’t go wrong with Alton, even if it’s just to get a few pointers for your own creation. He’s sciency, too.


  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 pint oysters and liquor, separated
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves, chervil, or chives
  • Salt and pepper

Obviously, I have more than a pint, so I winged it in about 1 1/2 recipe proportion.


  1. In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream and oyster liquor from the oysters to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the celery and a pinch of the salt and sweat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and continue cooking until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery seed, hot pepper sauce, and oysters and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the edges of the oysters start to curl.
  3. Transfer the oysters to the carafe of a blender and add enough of the cream just to cover.
  4. Puree until the mixture is smooth. Return the remaining cream to medium heat, add the pureed mixture, and cook until heated through.
  5. Just before serving, add the lemon juice, chopped herbs, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pretty damn simple, but creates one hellava gawd awful mess in the kitchen.

IMG 1283

This is the point at which you’re heating up the heavy cream and liquor from the oysters (seriously, I have no idea why their juice is call liquor), and sautéing the onions and celery (along with the 4 chopped porcini mushrooms I added in my own style).

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Then come the oysters, and then that whole thing goes into the processor or blender to be pureed, and yes, along with all the grit in the oysters (and in the oyster juice as well). Personally, I like my oysters on the half shell to not be drained. I like the grit—in clam chowder as well—which signals to me that is has not been processed to the lowest common idiot denominator.

Once that’s done, it goes in with the cream and juice, and a shot while later, is served.

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Another variation beyond the mushrooms is that I sliced up a small stock of leek and added that into the cooking portion. Then, for garnish, it was fresh leek, fresh celery and fresh parsley.

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As always, all images can be clicker for higher-res versions.

In the end, I think I’ll primarily stick with fresh raw oysters on the half shell. It was good, but very, very heavy. Perhaps using half-&-half would have been a bit better, or, it’s just a small cup as an app prior to dinner. It just felt way too heavy and substantial to me, in the end, though very tasty.

I have a bottle of clam juice, so I intend to cut the leftovers with that when I have some this afternoon.

…Alright, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go clean up ce bordel that used to be my kitchen. World Series got in the way. But wow. Giants have prevailed in six straight games, giving up only 4 runs in 54 innings. The last time there was a back-to-back shutout in the the WS was 1966, Baltimore against LA.

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  1. Cryptical1 on October 28, 2012 at 11:41

    Shiite Paleos! Thanks that made my day…but now I need to clean the beer from my computer screen. Gotta try this recipe. If it’s as good as your liver recipe, it’s a winner…

  2. EF on October 29, 2012 at 09:25

    Anyone like smoked oysters? I recently tried them and love them. Many ways to eat them but I prefer right out of the can (in olive oil).

    • Richard Nikoley on October 29, 2012 at 10:12

      Have eaten them my entire life, and I mean entire. They were with crackers until a few years ago.

  3. golooraam on October 29, 2012 at 10:25

    Hi Richard

    funny as I plan on cooking up some oysters today in some leaf lard, ginger, and serrano pepper

    out of curiosity, where in Point Reyes did you get those? how much were they a jar?

    thanks again

    • Richard Nikoley on October 29, 2012 at 10:38

      I got them them at Lunardi’s here in South Bay, about 6 bucks per jar. They would have been half that or less, but about $80 in gas and 4 hours round trip drive.

      Fucking capitalists.

      • golooraam on October 30, 2012 at 07:50

        good deal – I think mine were 4.99 at a fish market in Berkeley

        I am gonna try sauteeing them tonight with some fresh ginger and serrano pepper

  4. gabriella kadar on October 29, 2012 at 17:57

    Interesting. I’ve never yet put oysters in a blender but it seems a good idea for oysters in a jar because the ones available here are hugely varying in size.

    Would using a strainer eliminate bits of shell?

    ………waiting for Sandy’s visit. Tomorrow is probably going to be a washout.

  5. labbygail on October 29, 2012 at 18:12

    “a shot while later”

    Either a really funny typo or a great description of how you measure time ;-)

  6. Kristina on October 30, 2012 at 05:41

    Oh my God… “Shiite paleos….”

    That was almost a huge disruption in my university library and I’m still stifling giggles.

    Mostly because I ate a doughnut yesterday and am still waiting to be stoned publicly. Oh, wait, no one cares.

    Every time I read your posts about how much people love to hate each other on the internet, I imagine someone sitting behind a keyboard reading an article on “How to Chew” and having some kind of apoplectic attack, screaming “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!”

    Oh, and Amy Kubal over at wrote a cute one on shades of paleo ( for those among us who seem to always need permission to deviate from anything, ever.

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