Oysters have been part of our Yankee Holiday custom for centuries. Oysters were plentiful here on our shores and have been used in stuffing since the Puritan era. Did you know that oyster stuffing - as well as other types of stuffing - was originally stuffed between the skin and meat of the turkey? For the first hundred or so years of New England colonization, it was a rampant debate of which is better tasting, loosening the skin around a fowl to stuff or simply pack it into the cavity of a dressed bird.

Regardless, oyster stew is a New England classic as well. I have taken this perpetual meal in itself and added even more Yankee ingredients and I think you will find it satisfying and deliciously beckoning the past to the present.

Oysters have traveled through our Yankee Holiday, landing in a Shoreline Christmas Stew.
Oysters have traveled through our Yankee Holiday, landing in a Shoreline Christmas Stew. (Courtesy photo)

1 pound large chestnuts in shells*

1 cup diced, white potato

1 cup diced, sweet potato

1 pint (about 16 ounces) raw oysters, drained

3 ounces raw Maine shrimp, drained

1 slice bacon, diced

1/2 small onion, peeled and minced

1 celery rib, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon dried chives

1 cup light cream

3 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Place chestnuts in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for 30 minutes.

Remove from water and carefully slit the bottom of each with an 'x' on the rounded bottom of each chestnut. Place on a large, microwave safe dish and cover with a wet paper towel. Heat, on high, for 2 minutes. Remove to let cool to room temperature before peeling and chopped.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, add the bacon and cook over medium heat until almost crispy. Add the chopped chestnuts, onion and celery and continue cooking with the bacon until celery is crisp tender, about another 3-4 minutes. Add the potatoes, chives and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender without falling apart, about 6-7 minutes. Add the shrimp and oysters, cooking another 4-5 minutes or until the edges of the oysters start to curl. Add the cream, salt, pepper and thyme. immediately.

You can also buy jarred chestnuts that are pre-peeled and cooked.