Recipes

Oyster Dressing

It’s not Thanksgiving in New Orleans without Oyster Dressing. Every family has their own favorite version, but this one comes from Frank Davis’s Creole sidekick Mary Clare. Featured as part of “Franksgiving” dinner specials on WWL-TV, Mary Clare’s recipe includes sage, personal advice in the instructions. Her remarks will make you feel as though you’re getting a cooking lesson from your Creole grandmother!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped smoked sausage
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion tops
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 dozen oysters, chopped (reserve oyster liquor)
  • 1 cup turkey pan drippings
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Frank Davis Poultry Seasoning (or any Creole seasoned salt)
  • 1 teaspoon Frank Davis Seafood Seasoning (or any Creole seasoned salt)
  • 4 cups fresh bread chunks (see Note)
  • 1 whole egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttered cracker crumbs (see Note)
  • melted butter (to drizzle over the top)

Directions

Melt butter in a large cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, celery, bell pepper, sausage, and green onion tops; sauté until all of them are tender. Next, stir in the parsley. Then gradually stir in the chopped oysters, the oyster liquor, and the turkey pan drippings. Cook gently over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, stirring all the while. When all of the ingredients are well mixed, drop in the salt, thyme, basil, black pepper, poultry seasoning, and seafood seasoning. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes to allow time for the flavors to marry. This is one of the secrets to making a really good oyster dressing. Don’t rush or skip this step!

After the simmering process is finished, remove pot from heat and begin adding bread chunks a few at a time. Note that you do not have to add all four cups. If you want your dressing moist, stop adding bread when you get to the texture you desire. If you want a drier stuffing, add all four cups or even a little more if your taste and needs dictate. Taste the dressing again and make your final seasoning adjustments. The objective is to get the bread to absorb all of the pan liquor, thereby binding everything together.

When, in your estimation, the dressing is ready (it shouldn’t be soupy but it shouldn’t be dry either), allow it to cool slightly. Then rapidly stir in the raw egg to tie everything together. Cover the pot for a few minutes to let the dressing set up. This is where the richness comes in and how the final blending brings out the full flavor. If by chance you’ve miscalculated and made the mixture a bit too dry, just pour in a little extra turkey drippings.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Transfer the dressing right from the Dutch oven to a buttered casserole dish, generously sprinkle buttered cracker crumbs over the top, drizzle on a little extra melted butter, and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Note: Fresh bread chunks are better than dried crumbs in your oyster dressing because they tend to cook up fluffy rather than pasty. So, to make fresh bread chunks, just take fresh sliced bread or French bread and pull apart small bite-sized pieces.

To make your buttered cracker crumb topping, simply drop regular saltine crackers into the bowl of a food processor and, while the blades are spinning, pour in a couple of tablespoons of melted butter.

Serves 12-18

Recipe compliments of Mary Clare

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