Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Farmhouse Bread Stuffing with Oysters and Pecans

I have the most wonderful memories of my mother preparing stuffing for a holiday turkey.  The process always started days in advance, with loaves of bread, that were baked, cubed and dried.

Upon awaking Thanksgiving morning, the entire house smelled of melted butter, onions and celery.  Mom always grated her onion, which intensified the aroma, before adding it to the melted butter and chopped celery waiting in the skillet.  When ready, she'd drizzle the mixture over the dried bread in the bottom of a big roaster, before seasoning.

I loved to snatch a few of the saturated bread cubes before Mom stuffed them inside the bird.  Mmm. . . I can still taste that buttery goodness (with just a hint of onion) now.

I still follow the same basic recipe that my Mom used for her bread stuffing, but I've jazzed mine up a bit with mushrooms, pecans and oysters.  I grind my pecans, but if you like the idea of biting into a piece of nutmeat, go ahead and chop rather than grind.  The same goes for the onion, mushrooms, and celery - feel free to dice or slice into bigger pieces if you wish.

Finally, don't be afraid to add the oysters.  You can't actually see them once the stuffing is cooked, and the taste is very subtle.  I served this stuffing to my children for years, and they loved it.

1 cup butter, divided
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups mushrooms, finely chopped
2 T dried thyme
2 T dried sage

1/2 cup ground pecans
1/2 cup oysters, drained and chopped

8 cups dried, cubed artisan-style bread, crusts removed
1 can chicken broth

In a large skillet, cook onion, celery and mushrooms in 1/4 cup butter until moisture is removed.  Add remaining butter, just to melt.  Add oysters, and pecans to butter mixture.  

Place bread cubes in extra large bowl, or roaster.  Drizzle butter mixture over bread cubes, mixing continually with a large spoon so that cubes are evenly coated (or, roll up your sleeves, and use your hands in place of the spoon - I like this method best!).  

Sprinkle the bread mixture with seasoning, again mixing well to coat (once again, I use my hands).  You may add more seasoning if you wish, but remember, the seasoning will taste stronger once the stuffing is cooked.

Finally, sprinkle small amounts of chicken broth over the stuffing, and mix (you guessed it, I use my hands).  Repeat this process until the stuffing is as moist as you like it.  I like my stuffing moist (similar in texture to Stove Top Stuffing), but you can make it as dry as you'd like.  Remember, if you plan on stuffing a turkey with this dressing, the bird's natural juices will add more moisture.

Place desired amount of bread stuffing, loosely in the turkey's body cavity (just prior to roasting).  Turn remaining stuffing into a greased casserole dish, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Note:  You can usually find fresh oysters in the fresh seafood department of a larger grocery store.  They store them on ice, and should have an expiration date.

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