Fetures Turkey Tips

Turkey Tips
Oyster Ham Hock Stew
Jan Birnbaum, Catahoula-Calistoga, CA
Adapted by StarChefs

Yield: 12 servings

Oysters rank up there in my 10 most sexy things to cook and eat. This is a luxurious stew often made at New Years and sometimes at Thanksgiving, but either way it embodies special occasions for me. Much of this dish can be made in advance, which also makes it excellent for a holiday menu. There is an old myth in the south that says you should only eat oysters in the months that have an "R" in them, leaving May through August out of the question. During these months the oysters spawn, and the heat and humidity are brutal, making it hard to keep them fresh. Or, maybe it's too hot during these months to promote the kind of "freshness" associated with people after they've eaten oysters. --JB

  • 1 large smoked ham hock, to the shin
    ( If only knuckles are available use 2 and have your butcher cut them in half on the saw.)
  • 1/2 gallon light chicken stock
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 large onion coarsely chopped
  • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded
  • 1 small yukon gold potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, coarsely chopped
  • 2 blades celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek, white only, cleaned carefully of sand
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon toasted and ground coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 5 cups fish fumet


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • ½ bulb fennel, finely diced
  • 30 small oysters, shucked and stored in their natural liquor
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil

Sauté the garnish vegetables in a small amount of olive oil and reserve.

Place the ham hock into a sauce pot with the light chicken stock. Cover it and simmer over low heat until tender, approximately 1 ½ hours. Add water as necessary to keep the hocks mostly covered with liquid. Turn the hocks occasionally to promote even cooking. The meat should be falling off of the bone when done. Cool the hocks, reserve for later and reserve the delicious resulting broth. When the hocks have cooled, pull the meat off of the bones and cut them into bite size garnish pieces. Reserve for later.

In a 6-quart sauce pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to bubble until the bubbling stops, add the cloves of garlic and allow it to soften until beginning to brown on the edges. Add the onions and jalapeno and cook until soft and just beginning to brown. Add the potato, fennel, leek and celery. Cook gently until all veggies are softening.

Add bay leaf, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne and white pepper. Cook for 1 minute to release the oils from the spices. Add the white wine and cook it until nearly dry. Add the fish fumet and allow it to reduce by about half.

Then, add the ham hock broth and allow it to simmer until the flavors have melted and it tastes delicious-about 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and carefully purée the entire soup in a high-speed blender. A food processor will not do this job. Use a blender.

(You can make the soup 1-2 days in advance up to this point.)

Return the soup to a clean pot, add the ham hock meat and return to a gentle simmer. The stew wants to be slightly thick, but it's only especially sexy if it's not too thick. If necessary, add a small amount of stock too thin it.

Just before you are ready to serve the stew, remove it from the fire and add the oysters with their liquor. Allow them to cook a minute or so, stirring occasionally, just until they begin to curl. Divide the vegetable garnish between 12 hot bowls or put it into one large soup terrine, and pour the hot soup over it. Sprinkle the top with chopped chives and drizzle a very small amount of chili oil on top of the stew.