Oyster stuffing, or dressing, originated in New England, some say all the way back to the Colonial period when oysters were extremely plentiful and therefore eaten by rich and poor alike. They made their way to tables in the Midwest during the 1850’s when refrigerated train cars were first used. Since they had to be transported at great expense, they became more of a delicacy and were reserved for special occasions. In the 1900’s NE oysters went out of fashion due to high levels of pollution in the Atlantic.
Living in the Pacific Northwest has the huge perk of being close to some of the best oyster beds in the world, like Netarts and Yaquina Bay. You don’t need to shuck oysters for this dish. Buy a jar of freshly shucked oysters at your local fish market, and be sure to reserve the “liquor” from the jar.
The oysters lend a rich flavor to this stuffing without tasting “fishy”. They also keep this stuffing from drying out. I added a small can of smoked oysters to replicate the smoky flavor of bacon. You can make this with vegetable stock so it’s perfect for the pescatarians (those who don’t eat meat other than seafood) at your Thanksgiving table.
- 24 oz. Italian style bread, cut into one inch cubes and toasted in the oven
- 1 stick of butter, divided
- 1/2 lg. yellow onion, diced
- 1 large leek, white parts only, halved lengthwise, and sliced.
- 3 stalks of celery, diced
- 1/4 c. dry vermouth or dry white wine
- 1/2 t. celery seed
- 1/2 t. dried sage
- 3 oz. can of smoked oysters, chopped
- 10 oz. freshly shucked oysters, cut into thirds, reserve the liquor
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 C. vegetable broth
First prep all of your ingredients, and toast your bread cubes. Set them aside. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 4 T. of the butter. Add the onion, leek, and celery to the pan and sautee until soft and translucent. About 5-6 minutes. Add the vermouth or wine and stir up all the browned bits. Stir and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about two minutes. Scrap the vegetables into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool a bit. Meanwhile, in the same skillet cook the celery seeds, and sage with the chopped, smoked oysters, until they start to turn golden brown. Scrape in with the vegetable mixture. When the veggie mixture has cooled, add the fresh oysters and eggs, and stir gently to combine. Add the bread cubes and toss gently. Add the reserved liquor from the jar – up to about 1/4 C. You don’t want to break down the bread or oysters too much- I find that using my hands is really the best way to do this. Add the broth a little at a time and combine. You want the bread to be somewhere between moist and soggy. You may or may not use all the broth. The mixture should hold together when you scoop some into your hand, but it shouldn’t be dripping wet. Scrape the whole thing into a buttered baking dish about 9 x 11 inches. Cut the remaining 4 T. of butter into chunks and dot the top of the stuffing with it. Cover and chill until ready to bake. This can be assembled the day before. To bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees (while the turkey is resting is the perfect time) and bake, covered with foil for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until is has a nice golden brown crust, and is hot throughout- about 10 – 12 minutes longer.