Oyster Stew with Rosemary Croutons

This is a thick, rich stew that will warm you up anytime over the holiday season.

Oyster Stew with Rosemary Croutons
10 1/2 cups
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2 bacon slices, diced
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup vermouth
2 pints of oysters, undrained
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
3 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Rosemary Croutons

Cook first 3 ingredients in a Dutch oven over medium heat 12 minutes or until onion and celery are tender. Add vermouth, and simmer 1 minute. Add oysters.

Whisk together flour and clam juice in a small bowl, whisk into soup. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer 1 minute or until oyster edges curl. Reduce heat to medium-low; add half-and-half and next 4 ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat until thoroughly heated. (do not boil) Serve with Rosemary Croutons.

Rosemary Croutons
about 4 cups
Sprinkle these on salads also.

1/3 cup butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 cups (1-inch) French bread cubes (See Cooks Note)

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet; add garlic and next 3 ingredients. Saute' i minute over medium heat. Add bread cubes, tossing gently to coat.

Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until bread is lightly toasted.

COOK'S NOTE: I used the fabulous <a href="http://octoberfarm.blogspot.com/search/label/No%20knead%20bread%20recipe">No Knead Rosemary Bread </a>from <em>October Farm </em>in place of French Bread. Once you make this bread you will find endless ways to use it. This is the easiest and best bread you will ever make.