Jess Dowdell and her Aunt Shirley

Aunt Shirley’s Thanksgiving Oyster Stew Recipe

Posted in Culinary, Feature, Food, More Stories
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
November 17, 2016
Jess Dowdell and her Aunt Shirley

Jess Dowdell and her Great Aunt Shirley, from whom this recipe came (Photo by Jess Dowdell)

Here is my family’s oyster stew recipe, which my Great Aunt Shirley made for us every Thanksgiving. It was passed down to her from her father (my great grandfather), who always wanted this stew on his birthday. Now, I have my own tradition and make seafood chowder on Thanksgiving to honor them both. I hope you enjoy it!


  • 1 pint shucked oysters in their liquid
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 to 3 drops Sriracha sauce, or to taste
  • oyster crackers
  • extra butter (optional)
  • green onion
  • fresh lemon


  1. Start with fresh oysters. Shuck and save the liquid, then strain them through a fine strainer to remove any sand. Chill the oysters and liquid separately.
  2. In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan melt the butter over medium heat, stir in the shallots, and sauté until shallots are softened and clear.
  3. Blend in garlic and a few pinches of salt and pepper.
  4. Add the milk, cream, oyster liquid, and Sriracha sauce. Bring them to a simmer. Cook for two minutes at a gentle bubble, taking care that they don’t burn.
  5. Turn the heat down, so the liquid barely bubbles, add the oysters, and cook them for just a minute or until their edges begin to curl. You want them very tender.
  6. Serve the stew right away. Garnish with fresh green onions, a fresh lemon wedge, and crackers of your choice.

claudia-painting-feature-imageJess Dowdell and her husband Jon-Paul own Roaming Radish, which offers catering and a new gastropub that’s located in a converted airplane hanger outside Langley. Learn more about Whidbey Island’s oyster gardeners, Jess, Jon-Paul, and Roaming Radish in the current print issue of Whidbey Life Magazine. Subscribe, or locate a retailer where you can purchase your copy, here.


To read more WLM stories and blogs, CLICK HERE. Have a great story idea? Let us know at

WLM stories and blogs are copyrighted and all rights are reserved. You may link to this story. To request permission to use or reprint content from this site, email


Leave a Reply