- 2 dozen fresh-shucked medium oysters with their liquor (3 cups)
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 small fennel bulbs, chopped fine, plus the feathery tops, chopped for garnish
- 2 2/3 cups milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- With a slotted spoon, remove the oysters from their liquor. Strain the liquor through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat. Add the fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the milk, cream and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the oysters, the reserved oyster liquor and the Worcestershire sauce and bring just to a simmer, stirring constantly. Simmer just until the oysters plump and begin to curl, about 1 minute. Do not boil or the cream will curdle. Taste and add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt if needed. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve sprinkled with the paprika and chopped fennel tops.
There are few more classic food- and-wine pairings than fresh oysters and a bottle of Chablis from France. Despite the fact that the oysters here are cooked and in a soup, a young premier cru Chablis will work wonderfully. A cheaper alternative is a bottle of Muscadet, also from France.
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