Oyster Fest 2015

It's been two months, so let's show you some pictures of the annual Oyster Fest!  We had gorgeous weather, and amazing company, and of course my mom and dad were amazing hosts to share their place and oysters with everyone!  I think this year was the smoothest yet- we're way better shuckers, we got into small groups to make dishes rather than everyone doing their own, and Becky and Nora did a wonderful brunch for us on the second day to spread things out even more.  It was perfection!
The company my parents get their oysters from contributed cups, a frisbee, and some knives.  My parents got us each an insulated mug and seasoning packet.  They're just the best.
We watched a storm from across the water, with occasional lighting flashes, and everyone caught up.  Nora is now a big time flight attendant, so she's all over the place.  Eric is in Brooklyn, and chose to spend a free weekend with us shucking oysters :-)  And Becky was about to head off on tour with her Army band.  I can't believe we all had a weekend off!
A gorgeous day greeted us on Saturday, and Eric and I got to work making our soup.  He and Ben were shucking, and I was prepping veg.
The base is essentially potatoes, onion, and broth.  Blend a little, add a green leafy veggie, and then top to your hearts content!
Time to get some more oysters!  Mom and Dad are growing their own as well, so Dad rigged up a machine to help lift the cage out of the water.  Oysters naturally purify the water, so keeping them helps clean things up.  We made sure to only grab the larger oysters, and continue to let the little guys grow.
Such a natural on the water.
Love it here.
Time to blend the soup a bit!
All the toppings.  And some cornmeal-crusted baked oysters to top things off.  If you want the recipe, I included it at the very bottom of this post!
These two guys were more efficient than 5 of us shucking last year.  They're a good team.
They prepped trays of oysters for Dad to add his sauce to.  It was a play on oysters Rockefeller, and it was my favorite!  You'll see pictures of that soon, but first, sunset and Becky playing on the pier!  And Nora taking an oyster shot.
I don't play the french horn, but I'm trying to learn how to have my picture taken.  I'm way better at taking the pictures.
Ok, here's Dad's oyster dish!  Kind of oysters Rockefeller, but he was kind enough to use no breadcrumbs on some (for Becky), and no cheese on others (for Eric).  All were devoured.  And Mom made crabcakes.  I want to go back and eat all of these things again!
Here's Becky's and Nora's oyster omelet bar!  They were up before the rest of us prepping everything and shucking away.  Eric helped them shuck once he woke up, but tell me this isn't the way to live?!  Live every weekend like it's Oyster Fest.
Time for a group picture!  I told everyone to sit in the blue chairs, and these clowns sat in the ones that had blown over.  I'd expect nothing less.
Look casual everybody.
Do something silly!
And everyone cross your legs.
I already can't wait for next October!

Potato Chowder
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced (can be omitted, if needed)
Salt and pepper
5-6 large waxy potatoes, skins left on, large diced (I love yukon gold, but red potatoes will work too)
1 large sweet potato, large dice
8 cups broth- veggie or chicken both work
1/2 bunch of arugula, torn into smaller pieces (kale or other hearty greens will work too)
Optional garnish: baked oysters (see below for recipe), crispy bacon or prosciutto, crumbled feta cheese, sliced green onions, chopped parsley

Add the olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven heated over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, and stir for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and the onions are softening.  Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Add the potatoes, and turn the heat up to medium-high.  Stir for 3-4 minutes, while the potatoes develop some color but we're not cooking them through; if they start to burn, turn the heat back down to medium.  Add the broth and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes depending on your dice size (pierce one with a fork, and if it easily goes through, move on to the next step!).

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup!  I like to leave some nice chunks of potato, so I only blend it about halfway smooth, but if you want a silky smooth soup, feel free to keep going.  Add the torn arugula and let simmer for 2-3 minutes while the flavors meld.

Ladle into individual bowls and top with optional garnishes.

This soup freezes well in a sealed container for up to 4 months.

Baked Oysters Ingredients:
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
24 shucked oysters

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with cooking spray, or oil with a bit of olive oil.

Mix the cornmeal and spices in a small bowl.  Dredge the oysters, one at a time, in the mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cornmeal at the bottom is turning golden brown.

Serve immediately!

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