Post Thanksgiving Stuff(ings)

We’ve taken to adopting friends for Thanksgiving who otherwise lack plans. Our guest list quadrupled to a potentiality of 8 while the attendees only doubled but as usual we could have fed at least 12 or more and ate very well the following week. In the end, we could not settle on a single dressing/stuffing, a decision that led to 3 dressings on the table. The first was a standard, over the counter herb stuffing, perfectly respectable and involving no surprises: onion, celery, garlic, chicken broth, butter. The second was aimed for @Geistbear’s palette, a cornbread chorizo stuffing. The bread crumbs were from TJ’s, but the seasoning pack was abandoned for fresh carrots, onion, celery, garlic and the chorizo. It was very tasty, and spicy enough to allow me a taste but left me with no interest in a full portion, which means it was perfect. Our final stuffing was the dark horse. It had been mentioned to everyone and greeted with cool reserve, despite my enthusiasm.


I’d heard of oyster stuffing/dressing but had not ever crossed it’s path on any dining room table. Although oysters now represent expense and are known for subtle and rich flavors, they were at one time both cheap and plentiful. I had my heart and eyes set on a very old oyster stuffing recipe. This past year I obtained a copy of The Williamsburg Art of Cookery or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion. It was compiled in 1938 from a number of historical sources and, at that time, old family recipes, most dating from the mid-nineteenth century. It contains at least a dozen recipes for oysters, one of which is oyster stuffing. The recipe calls for a pint each of cracker crumbs and oysters, which are combined with milk or cream, butter, salt and pepper. This is what I created-

Ingredients

Quantity

Ingredient

6 c

dried bread crumbs

16 oz

oysters (fresh or canned) reserve liquid

2 c

milk and cream or half and half

½ c

each: carrot and onion, sauté until soft

3 tbsp

butter

1 tbsp

fresh thyme

2 tsp

dried marjoram

salt and pepper to taste

My bread crumbs were from an assortment of breads I had made over the past year, sourdough, milk, rye and a bit of store bought Italian. All had become stale and I had cubed the remainder and dried them gently in the oven. I roughly chopped the oysters and allowed the reserved liquor to settle. Sauté the vegetables, starting with the carrots and add the onion and after 2-3 minutes and cook until the onions are transparent and carrots have softened. Turn the heat down, add herbs, and gently pour the oyster liquor into the sauté pan, leaving behind any grit or other debris that may have settled out. Add oysters, milk, cream and butter (I used 1 ½ cups of milk and a ½ cup of cream) and allow butter to melt and stir to combine. Add warm oysters – vegetable mixture to bread crumbs and mix gently and rest for 10 – 15 minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed. Depending upon the dryness of your bread crumbs, additional milk may be required, add a couple tablespoons at a time until the stuffing is sufficiently moistened.


It is definitely sweet, with a clean ocean-brine flavor, and is a unique change from the standard, savory stuffing. The oysters play the same role as the gizzards or sausage in other stuffing recipes, they a have a distinct, strong flavor but impart a sweet richness. This could be used as to stuff your Thanksgiving bird, but I tend to think would better as a dressing as its mild flavor could be overwhelmed by the brines, herbs, spices and glazes that are now popular.


Please do not partake if you have shellfish allergies, and approach this with caution, if you do not do care for strong ocean or “fishy” flavors. If however, you like oysters, either raw or smoked, or other mollusks (clams, mussels, scallops) it is definitely worth a try.

Ingredients

Quantity

Ingredient

6 c

dried bread crumbs

16 oz

oysters (fresh or canned) reserve liquid

2 c

milk and cream or half and half

½ c

each: carrot and onion, sauté until soft

3 tbsp

butter

1 tbsp

fresh thyme

2 tsp

dried marjoram

salt and pepper to taste

 

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