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Craig's Oyster Stew

At Jackson, Mississippi’s new oyster bar, Saltine, menu item Craig’s Oyster Stew tells a special story. The stew is named for late Parlor Market Chef Craig Noone, who created the recipe but was never quite happy with the final taste. Saltine Chef Jesse Houston serves the dish with a side of salt, a wedge of lemon and a tiny bottle of hot sauce, giving diners the chance to perfect the dish to their liking.

Soup base:

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup fennel bulb, minced
1 tsp. fennel seed
2 leeks, sliced, white part only
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh tarragon
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups dry vermouth
3 cups lobster stock (may substitute fish stock)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup oyster liquor
Salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Tabasco to taste


1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, minced, white part only
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
2 dozen freshly shucked oysters

In a small stockpot on low, heat olive oil. Add onions, garlic, fennel, fennel seed and leeks. Sweat vegetables until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, tarragon, bay leaves and vermouth. Cook until reduced by a third, about 8 minutes. Add lobster stock and cook until reduced by a third, about 8 minutes. Add heavy cream and reduce by a third again, about 8 minutes. Add oyster liquor and season with salt, lemon juice and Tabasco to taste.

In a small saucepan on low, heat 1 tablespoon oil for garnish. Add leek, shallot and garlic and sweat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add diced tomato and soup base. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Add oysters and cook 10 seconds to lightly poach.

In six soup bowls, ladle in soup ensuring each bowl has four oysters. Sprinkle with finely minced chives and serve with lemon wedge, mini Tabasco bottle and pinch of sea salt for each diner to season their soup.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Saltine Executive Chef Jesse Houston.  

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