Thanksgiving Oyster Dressing (or Stuffing)

On a photo shoot in New Orleans a couple of years ago, a local photo assistant scribbled her mother’s oyster stuffing recipe down on a piece of notepaper in bright red pen. That was the moment I started obsessing about this dressing. While my version is now substantially different from hers, (she likes to use a herb seasoning mix and frozen spinach) and mine is not traditionally Southern, at all, it’s become a favorite amongst my friends and I now make it on special occasions, year ’round, no-matter-what. It is a labor of love, but you won’t regret it. I usually wake early Thanksgiving morning when all is quiet, and shuck the oysters myself. The dressing, (so called because it’s cooked outside the bird, it’s called ‘stuffing’ is it’s cooked within the bird) combines Andouille, Chorizo, Double smoked bacon, Smoked Paprika, Jalapeno and a combination of sweet Cornbread and crusty Baguette.

To all, wishing everyone a wonderful, safe, and Happy Thanksgiving, near or far. Enjoy!

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OYSTER DRESSING
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile place 1 tablespoon of Bacon fat (rendered from a piece of double smoked bacon) and 1 tablespoon of Lamb Merguez fat (render some fat off some locally made lamb Merquez sausages) to a large fry pan and melt down over medium heat. If you don’t have access to this, just regular Canola Oil will work fine.

Add 2 strips of Double Smoked Bacon, 1 Andouille Sausage and 1 Chorizo Sausage (all sliced to quarter-inch pieces) fry until nearly crisp and cooked through, about 6 minutes.

Add 1 whole stick of Unsalted Butter to this mixture and when it’s melted, add half a medium White or Yellow Onion1 half Green Bell Pepper and 1 rib of Celery, (all finely diced) and 2 cloves of Garlic and 1 tablespoon of Jalapeño (both finely minced). The onion, green pepper and celery should be roughly equal in proportion. (Although the ratios can vary, this flavor base is sometimes called the Holy Trinity in the South). Keep cooking this until the onions are transparent.

Add 2 tablespoons of smoked Spanish Paprika and a pinch of Cayenne Pepper and mix through. Add pinch of Salt and a tiny bit of Pepper. Turn down to low then set aside.

Dice 1 large white French Baguette or other white bread into quarter-inch dice or smaller and put in a large bowl. It’s important to keep the bread pieces fairly small so to soak up all the juices. Break up about 1 cup of prepared Cornbread and place into the bowl with the baguette.

(Note: You can make your own cornbread but store-bought works just as well. Wholefoods has a good one that I’ve used several times. You want the cornbread to be on the sweeter side, to balance all the spicy meats and peppers.  The Allen’s Hill Farm in Broomfield NY makes a very good packaged cornbread that contains their sweet apple cider molasses, you can find it at specialty stores or contact them online. http://www.allenshillfarm.com/)

On top of the baguette/corn bread mixture, place the entire contents of the sausage/bacon mixture from the pan, as well as 2 tablespoons of chopped Italian Parsley and 2 whole Scallions minced. Add 48 freshly shucked Oysters and their juices. I use the Malpeque oysters, from Prince Edward Island. I find they have enough brine naturally once shucked without having to purchase extra for this dish. Do use whatever local oysters you have, but ideally you want to have about a cup of oyster brine once they’ve been shucked.

Finally, beat 4 extra-large Eggs lightly with one teaspoon of Salt and pour over the oysters. Mix it all together with your hands. Mush it between your fingers until all the oysters are evenly distributed. Pour into a baking dish (no need to grease, there is enough buttery moisture in this dish that it will not stick to the pan) and pat down. I shake a few drops of Louisiana style Hot Sauce over the top and if you want you can stir fry some more tiny bits of Chorizo or Andouille and scatter on top as well. Bake in oven at 350 for about 45 minutes. It will be luscious, slightly wet looking and bubbly. Don’t overcook, you may need to reheat it at some point so you don’t want it start out being too dry.This dish serves 8 as a side-dish with quite a bit for leftovers.

Leftover Idea: 
Use the dressing the next day, sliced in a thick chunk, lightly fried in butter till heated through and then put on a toasted brioche with lot’s of drippy gravy and top with a sweet sour cranberry sauce. (And perhaps a little creamy mashed potatoes on the side).
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The Oyster dressing is in the blue casserole dish, top right.
Photograph by MARCUS NILSSON
Check out Marcus’ new blog here.
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