Food & Drink

What is oyster dressing? That depends on the recipe

This oyster dressing recipe by Elizabeth Karmel includes white bread and saltine crackers.
This oyster dressing recipe by Elizabeth Karmel includes white bread and saltine crackers. AP

Thanksgiving is Thursday, and unless you’ve ordered your feast or plan to eat out, you’re getting your groceries together in preparation.

You’re also likely digging out those grease-spattered, worn recipe cards or limp sheets of paper that bear the faded-ink secret codes for your mother’s or grandmother’s gravy, sweet potato casserole (big or little marshmallows?), green bean casserole and dessert of choice.

Of course, dressing is one of those “we always do it this way” dishes — and it goes without saying that down here, it’s always dressing, never stuffing (no matter in what vicinity of the bird it rests).

Dressing can be as divisive as Coke vs. Pepsi. Sage or not? All cornbread or a mix of cornbread and loaf bread (or biscuits)? Or — gasp — packaged dressing mix? In the turkey or in a casserole dish? Soupy or firm?

Then we get to oyster dressing. I grew up in Mississippi, but not on the Coast or near any large body of water, so seafood was slightly exotic in our family.

Catfish and chicken ruled. Our dressing got bumped up with shredded chicken and slices of hard-boiled eggs. Here on the Coast, however, seafood can sneak into almost everything, including traditional holiday dishes.

By the way, lots of families serve gumbo on Thanksgiving as well as Christmas, either a favorite family recipe or a supply ordered from a local restaurant.

Even oyster dressings vary. Some are robust, with sausage and rice, while others are more like traditional cornbread dressing with some bivalves tossed in for interest and texture. Here, you’ll find some options. Find one that intrigues you, and you just might create a new tradition this Thanksgiving.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

Oyster Dressing

1/2 pound ground chuck

1/2 pound sausage

3 cups cooked rice

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

10 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup chopped bell pepper

1 quart raw oysters, drained

1/2 cup chopped parsley (or 2-3 tablespoons, dried)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Tabasco

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Water for moisture (plus or minus 1/2 cup)

Saute onions and pepper in butter. Brown meat. Mix vegetables and meat with rice and other ingredients. Add oysters. Cook until oysters are done (edges are curled), about 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

Submitted by Andrew Ory, From Old Biloxi Recipes by Sonya Fountain Miller Facebook page archives

This recipe submitted to Allrecipes.com by Barrett is the more familiar cornbread and bread cube dressing, starring fresh oysters.

Southern Cornbread Oyster Dressing

1/4 cup butter

1 red onion, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cups crumbled cornbread

3 cups soft bread cubes

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 eggs, beaten

1 pint shucked oysters, drained with liquid reserved

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter one 4-quart casserole dish.

Chop the oysters. Saute red onion, green onion, celery and oysters in 2 tablespoons of the butter until soft.

In a large bowl, combine cooked onion and oyster mixture with cornbread, bread cubes, parsley, eggs and 1/2 cup reserved oyster liquid. Gently toss to mix, add salt and pepper to taste.

Place dressing in casserole dish and dot with remaining butter. Bake uncoverd for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Emeril Lagasse, whose ties to the Mississippi Gulf Coast come through wife and Gulfport native Alden Lagasse, offers this dressing recipe at Emerils.com; it’s originally from “Essence of Emeril.”

New Orleans Oyster Dressing

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

3 cups cubed day-old bread

2 cups oysters with their liquor

1 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously oil a medium baking dish.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add onion, green pepper and celery and saute, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Lower the heat and fold in bread cubes, oysters and their liquor, and broth until moistened. Add green onions, parsley, Creole seasoning and hot pepper sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour dressing into baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes longer, until golden brown and crispy on top.

Much like bread pudding’s original role as a deliciously sweet way to use up old bread, this oyster dressing recipe makes use of day-old cornbread, day-old biscuits and day-old bread. It’s from “Cooks from Ole Brook,” the Brookhaven Junior Auxiliary cookbook, which at least three generations of Brookhaven women have in their collections (including mine).

Oyster Dressing

1 stalk celery

2 large onions

1 green pepper

3 hard-boiled eggs

1 pint oysters

1 pan day-old biscuits

1 pan day-old corn bread

1/2 loaf day-old bread

4 or 5 cups chicken broth

Chop and combine all ingredients. Season to taste. Put in shallow pan and place under the broiler, about 20 minutes.

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