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Irish Oyster Soup

This old recipe from Ballymoney in County Antrim is wonderfully rich--and extravagant in its oysters, reflecting Ireland's generous use of the fabulous bivalve from as far back as mesolithic 5500 BC. You can certainly get away with fewer--say, a pint instead of a quart of shucked oysters. Serve hot as a meal to 6-8 people.

Garnish: chopped parsley

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil, remove from heat, dunk in the bouquet garnie, and let infuse. Then saute the diced salt pork in a little butter over low heat until it is just cooked through.

When the potatoes are done, peel and mash, then whip in the hot herbed milk. When the salt pork is tender, add the pieces, drained of their grease. Season to taste. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then add the oysters with their liquid. Simmer for a few minutes. Taste for seasoning and stir in the rest of the butter. You can make a nice presentation from a tureen at the table--or just ladle into bowls in the kitchen and serve at once, garnished with chopped parsley.