Chef Will Gahagan’s Christmas Dinner


Oyster Stew
Are you looking for something special to make for Christmas dinner? Well, over the next three days, we will bringing you recipes from some of our favorite local chefs. But these don’t come from their restaurants. Instead, these are recipes for family traditions.

The first comes from the White Buffalo Club‘s chef Will Gahagan.

“My family has always served an oyster stew on Christmas,” he said. The recipes is an adaptation from Lonny’s Oyster Stew, which comes from Lonny’s Restaurant in Port Townsend, Washington.

This year, he plans to serve it either Christmas or New Year’s Day in the restaurant.

Oyster Stew


  • 1 cup diced pancetta, or thick bacon (optional)
  • 1/4 cup butter or olive oil
  • 4 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced thinly
  • 8-10 leeks, only white and light green parts, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into half moons
  • 1 yellow onion, diced finely.
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 ounces Sambuca or Pernod
  • 4-5 quarts half and half
  • 24 ounces shucked oysters, in their juice, available at certain stores or fish markets (they usually come in 8 ounce jars)


  • In a heavy bottomed soup pot, cook pancetta on medium heat until crispy and all the fat is rendered.
  • Add butter, onion, leeks and fennel and saute on medium-low heat until softened, but not caramelized.
  • Sprinkle in flour and stir to combine.
  • Add Pernod or Sambuca.
  • Add half and half, and slowly bring to a simmer, do not boil.
  • Stir often, to make sure the flour doesn't stick to bottom of pan.
  • Add oysters with juice, and continue to simmer until they are just tender and barely cooked.
  • Do not boil.
  • Serve in warm soup bowls with chopped parsley or chives and oyster crackers if you wish.

About Author

Also originally from the South, Cara Rank discovered cooking was a creative outlet that helped her relax after long days writing magazine and newspaper articles during the past eight years in Jackson. Really, she just missed Southern food. A lot. During a 12-year career as a journalist, Cara has won numerous awards for her work and has written about everything from rodeo queens to Dolly Parton tomatoes. She spends her weekends making jars of pickles and jam and amazing dinners for friends. She loves shishito peppers, Chicago-style hot dogs and elderflower-spiked cocktails.

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