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Carolina Kitchen: Oyster stew from the whole family

It's one of those random memories that pops up from time to time: Grandma picking up a container of fresh oysters in the grocery store in order to make oyster stew for her husband.

Maybe I'm romanticizing it a bit. I mean Valentine's Day was just this past weekend.

Because she only did it once or twice a year - and it wasn't something she made for the entire family - it seemed that one act said so much of the love between those two.

It was special.

And it is such a simple recipe.

Basically milk, cream, butter and oysters.

Ultra-rich, really simple.

So ... I decided on Friday that I wanted to make a batch over the weekend.

All I needed were the oysters.

Yeah, I know. The one weekend that you really don't want to go to the grocery, fighting for that last container of milk and loaf of bread, I needed to go because I really, really wanted oyster stew.

Enter my father.

The snow had just started to fall when he called me at work.

"Do you need anything from the store?" he asked.

I said it could wait until I got off work around six but then he mumbled something about needing an excuse to go to the store to pick up treats for his puppies (the beagles, Chester and Charlotte).

"Well, if you're going anyway, could you pick me up some leeks and oysters," I say.

I told him what I was planning and he was off and running.

Kroger had the leeks, but no oysters, he reported back.

No problem, I told him, I'll stop by the Pig on the way home.

At this point, I think this had became a mission for him.

"No, no. I'm heading there now and will call you back," he says.

Ten minutes later he calls to tell me he's going to Fresh Market.

Another 10 minutes and he calls from Publix to report his mission complete.

Now, the pressure is on me.

I didn't want him running around in a snowstorm to begin with. Now, I needed to make some (hopefully) really good oyster stew to repay his kindness.

I've strayed a bit from the basic recipe by adding sauteed leeks because, well, I like leeks and the subtle taste that they impart.

The finished stew must have been OK.

Daddy ate two full bowls of it standing in the kitchen.

Oyster stew

six to eight servings

4 tablespoons butter

one medium leek, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced

2 cups cream

2 cups milk

2 cups oysters, picked over to remove any bits of shell; large oysters can be diced or cut in half

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the leek in half lengthwise. Run under cold water, separating the layers to remove all sand and grit. Pat dry.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Saute the leeks in the butter until just wilted, don't let the butter brown.

Add cream and milk and heat to simmer. You want to scald, not boil the milk.

Add the oysters and any of the liquid that they came in and simmer for three minutes, until the oysters start to curl at the edges. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

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