The Gravy: In the Kitchen with the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic’s Bethany Bultman

“I love to cook, and my family’s pecan pie recipe is to die for. I have four friends around the country who, whenever a Louisiana musician comes through their town to play, they make my pecan pie and bring it to the gig.

And I’ve never written my absinthe oyster stew recipe down, but I can tell you what I do, because it’s pure creamy goodness. It is absolutely wonderful and anytime you’re out all day and night, like during Mardi Gras, for the parades, you can make this for a small group when you get home, and it’s so much fun. You light the absinthe on fire, to burn the alcohol off, and it’s fun to serve it like that. You put the terrine on the table, and it looks all nice, and then the absinthe goes in. It’s like white velvet. I like to serve my soup with champagne and a fresh, citrusy salad. I just came back from Paris, France, and had the most wonderful salad there, fresh oranges with fresh basil. You have to try it. Perfect for Krewe du Vieux night when you come home and want a light meal.

Bethany Bultman, New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, Elsa Hahne photo

The New Orleans Musicians' Clinic's Bethany Bultman (photo: Elsa Hahne)

Whatever you do, do not use pasteurized oysters! You could just as well take old kitchen sponges. Just awful. No! The oysters must be fresh. I get mine at the Crescent City Farmers Market, and you don’t overcook them. They’re not supposed to sit in there. You cook them until the edges curl and that’s that.”

Recipe: Bethany Bultman’s Absinthe Oyster Soup
(Serves 6-8)
2-inch square piece of salt pork, with fat, diced into cubes, or 4 thick slices of bacon
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup finely diced fresh fennel (from the bulbuous root)
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 bunch green onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons flour
4 cups warm milk
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups oyster liquor (substitute bottled clam juice if you don’t have enough)
Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
Hot sauce from Barbados
5-6 dozen fresh, clean, raw oysters
Chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup absinthe or pernod, warmed (not boiled!)

Fry the salt pork in a pan to render some of the fat, salt and flavor. Discard pork, leaving fat in pan. Add butter, and quickly sauté seasonings (fennel, celery, onion, green onion and garlic) until translucent.

Lightly brown flour in another (dry) frying pan, stirring constantly until flour is beige. Add flour to vegetables, sauté for a minute, then add warm milk, cream and oyster liquor. Season to taste with Tony’s and hot sauce.

Warm a serving bowl or soup terrine by pouring boiling water in it and letting it sit for a few minutes, then discard water.

Add oysters to hot soup, and gently simmer until edges curl.

Pour soup into serving bowl. Garnish with parsley and a pat of butter. Light the absinthe (or pernod) on fire in a fireproof bowl (metal or ceramic). Wait for the flame to die down and then pour into soup. Stir and serve.

Ingredients: Bethany Bultman’s Great Uncle Eddie Gschwind’s Famous Chewy Pecan Pie
3 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup light Karo Syrup
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 drops cider vinegar
2 tablespoons bourbon or brandy
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell (made with lard and butter, of course!)
1 cup whole pecans

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Stir all the ingredients together, except for the pie shell and the whole pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell, and decorate the top of the pie with a nice pattern of whole pecans. Bake for 2 1/2 hours at 225 degrees and then 30 more minutes at 300 degrees (you might need to cover the edges with aluminum foil to keep the crust from burning).

More from Bethany Bultman, founder of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic (NOMC) and the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation (NOMAF) in The Gravy—In the Kitchen with New Orleans Musicians (High ISO Music, 2013) due out this month. The book will be available for sale at and also for a short time through Kickstarter at a special price ($25) to help offset printing costs. Some of the proceeds (if any) will benefit the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.