I love a good fish stew, and a favorite is fish chowder. (After all you can take the girl out of New England, but you can’t take New England out of the girl.) Depending on what looks best in the market, I usually choose a firm-fleshed fish such as halibut or salmon, and combine it with a smoky component, such as bacon or smoked salmon. The smokiness is crucial to get the extra depth of flavor in the soup.
Not so long ago, I decided to make oyster stew. After all, the Saints won the Superbowl, and when I think of New Orleans I immediately think of food and then oysters. It would be cream-based as all good Oyster Stews should be. For the smoky component I added chorizo. It lent a kick of spice and beautiful saffron color to the broth. To pop things out and add more substance to the soup I finished the stew with fresh spinach, just long enough for the leaves to wilt, but still maintain their vibrant green color.
Oyster Stew with Chorizo and Spinach
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz. (180 g.) chorizo sausage, cut in 1/4″ slices
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shucked oysters (about 12), liquor drained and reserved
3 cups spinach leaves, washed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chorizo. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Transfer chorizo to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from saucepan. Add onion to saucepan and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add milk, cream and reserved oyster liquor to the onions. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add spinach and cook briefly until wilted but still bright green. Add oysters and simmer until cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately in warm bowls.