Sunday, November 15, 2020

Classic Oyster Dressing

A classic Deep South dressing, made with torn French bread, vegetables and fresh Gulf oysters with their liquor.
A classic Deep South dressing, made with torn French bread, vegetables and fresh Gulf oysters with their liquor.

Classic Oyster Dressing

Growing up, Mama always made two dressings. One, she made with bread, most often using the Pepperidge Farms herb stuffing mix and it went right into the bird, with leftovers to be baked in a side dish. I always ate the one from the turkey and despite modern day warnings, I somehow survived. It really was the best!

The other dressing she made was an oyster dressing for my Daddy. Daddy was the oyster lover in our family and other than me, none of the rest of the family were all that interested in it to my recollection.

Daddy used to sit out in our carport shucking oysters out of a sack and I'd watch as he'd occasionally just loosen that oyster from the shell and let it slide into his mouth, right off the half shell. Every once in awhile he'd stick one in my face "c'mon, try it" to which I'd scrunch up my nose and shake my head with an emphatic no! 

One day I got adventurous and tried one, and as odd as it felt to me, I never forgot that salty, briny flavor. It wasn't until years later that I'd have a greater appreciation for raw oysters. And, now? Well, I can put down two dozen of them in one sitting and with very little help from anybody else, although with concerns over consuming raw things has gotten more attention, even I have backed off of that.

Mama did not ever make a cornbread-based dressing, not that I can remember, and no, she wasn't from up north. 

She was born and raised right here in the deepest of the Deep South. Cornbread just never was a thing with her. Several years back, I wrote a recipe for oyster dressing made with a version of my regular cornbread dressing for the readers here. 

My Mama's oyster dressing was made with soaked loaf bread and it was packed into the baking dish, making it very dense and heavy. I loved the flavor, but never really cared for the texture, so I sought to remedy that with my version, made with stale French bread.

We are so lucky to have amazing oysters here along the Gulf Coast and it's the main reason that oyster dishes are so common here during the holidays. Unfortunately, our oyster beds have been hit hard the past few years, and there aren't many local oysters to be found yet, so most of the ones gracing our holiday tables this year are coming from Texas.

As always, full recipe text with measurements and instructions, as well as a printable document, are a little bit further down the page. Just swipe or scroll past the step by step pictures below. Here's how I make my oyster dressing. Recipe is written for a 9 x 13 inch pan, though photos below reflect a half recipe, since it's just The Cajun and me.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13 by 9 inch casserole dish and set aside. I find it much easier to tear the stale bread if I cut through and slice it first. Stale French bread is hard! You can also cube it if you prefer. Strain the oysters so that you can remove any pieces of shell, then add torn French bread to large bowl & pour strained oyster liquor over; toss with fork. Add chicken broth, mix and set aside to allow liquid to be soaked in.

Meanwhile, chop up the onion, celery, bell pepper, green onion and garlic. Melt butter in a large skillet and sauté veggies over medium high heat until tender, but not browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add seasonings and toss. Add soaked French bread and toss to warm through. Remove from heat.

Unless they are very small, chop oysters into bite sized pieces and add to dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add egg, mix and transfer to the prepared casserole. Gently spread out in the dish but do not pack.

Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and browned on top, about 40 to 45 minutes. 

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For more of my favorite dressing recipes, check out the collection on my Pinterest page!

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Posted by on January 1, 2020
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