yields four servings
4 tablespoons benne seeds
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons finely diced bacon (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons very finely minced yellow onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
24 oysters, shucked, with liquor strained and reserved
1 1/4 cups fish stock or bottled clam juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil or Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the benne seeds in a small, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat and dry roast them by cooking them for about 9 minutes or until they become dark and fragrant. Remove from the stove. Roughly crush half the benne seeds with a spoon and reserve.
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Sauté the bacon for about 5 minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Leave the oil and any fat from the bacon in the saucepan.
Add the onion and crushed benne seeds to the saucepan and sauté them for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure that they brown but don't burn. When the onions are lightly browned, add the flour, stir well to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a separate pan to just below a simmer.
Add the reserved oyster liquor, fish stock, and thyme leaves and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk until the mixture simmers happily and without lumps. Add the warm cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the oysters, the remaining 2 tablespoons of benne seeds, the lemon juice, sesame oil, and chervil or parsley. Leave the oyster stew on the heat until the oysters just begin to curl. Quickly remove the saucepan from the heat and add a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper, or to taste.
To serve, divide the stew into four warmed soup bowls. Garnish with the reserved chopped bacon and serve immediately. Accompany with oyster crackers or buttered toast fingers. At the table, the stew would be hot and steamy and the oysters plump and juicy.
bacon recipe courtesy of: The Food, Folklore, and Art of Lowcountry Cooking: A Celebration of the Foods, History, and Romance Handed Down from England, Africa, the Caribbean, France, Germany, and Scotland by Joseph E. Dabney. Cumberland House, 2010 | Atlanta Magazine, August 1, 2010