This magnificent soup comes from Chef Anne Kearney of Peristyle, at 1041 Dumaine St. in the French Quarter ... one of the very best restaurants in the city. Oysters are beautifully complemented by the flavor of fennel and tarragon, and the little extra anise kick from the Herbsaint (or whatever pastis you use) is just luscious.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, fennel and celery, cooking slowly unitl tender. Do not color. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Herbsaint or pastis carefully because it will flame. Stir constantly while the liquor burns off to prevent it from burning the vegetables.

When flame dies, dust he vegetables with flour and stir for 2-3 minutes while the flour cooks out. Add the oyster liquor. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Hold warm for immediate service, or cool quickly and store properly.

Heat 8 ounces of soup base per person until boiling, and add 6 oysters each. Cook until they just begin to curl, add a shot of cream, herbs and season to taste.

YIELD: 8 servings


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Chuck Taggart   email chuck (at) gumbopages (dot) com