Not Just Thanksgiving Stuffing

Now that it has been a few leftover-filled days past Thanksgiving, I'm sure most of you don't want to hear the words "turkey," "gravy" or "cranberry sauce" until November 2009. But in the spirit of excess that the holiday embodies, I had to share an oyster stuffing recipe that was a hit at our Thanksgiving table. Don't stop reading! It doesn't have to eaten along with the traditional turkey day accoutrements (although it was delicious with the brined, smoked turkey that our host prepared on the grill). The great thing about this recipe is that it has simple, delicious flavors that are a winning combination beside any dish — briny oysters, lightly smoked bacon and fresh hints of sage, thyme and parsley. Use it to dress up a roast chicken dinner, or even serve it alongside a grilled pork tenderloin or holiday ham. However you serve it, it's guaranteed to make everyone at the table thankful, no matter the occasion.


Oyster Stuffing
(8-10 servings)
This recipe is a New England classic, and with a few minor changes, pretty true to the original "Herbed Oyster Stuffing" recipe published in the November 1992 edition of Gourmet Magazine.

Ingredients:

* 2 fresh French baguettes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
* 1/2 lb sliced hickory smoked bacon
* 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (if needed)
* 2 medium onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
* 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
* 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
* 2 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 2/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
* 16 oz jar FRESH oysters, drained and juices reserved; oysters cut into halves or thirds
* 2 1/4 cups turkey giblet stock or low-sodium chicken broth


Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Spread bread cubes in 2 shallow baking pans and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes Cool bread in pans on racks, then transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet. Crumble bacon.
  4. If the bacon doesn't render enough fat, add olive oil. Cook onions, celery, garlic, salt, and pepper in fat in skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add thyme and sage, and stir another minute or two. Transfer to bowl with bread cubes, then stir in bacon, parsley, butter and stock, seasoning well with salt and pepper (don't forget to taste!).

The recipe can be made up to this step 1-2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate, and then bring to room temp before putting in the oven.

5. Add chopped oysters, and about 1/2 cup of reserved oyster liquer, making sure to decant so that none of the sandy sediment on the bottom gets into the stuffing.

6. Transfer stuffing to a buttered 3- to 3 1/2-quart shallow baking dish. Bake, covered with lid or foil in middle of oven for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until browned, about 30 minutes more.

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