Every region of the United States has its own way of celebrating the holidays. New Mexico enjoys putting chilies in their Thanksgiving dinner, residents in the South tend to deep-fry their turkey, and in New England, oyster stuffing is king. When it comes to side dishes, oyster dressing is a favorite for many that live on the East Coast.

How To Make New England Oyster Stuffing

Like traditional dressing or stuffing recipes, the recipe begins with bread cubes. French bread or ciabatta works wonderfully in this stuffing, but anything from white bread to cornbread can be used. Just slice the bread into cubes and arrange on a baking sheet to dry in the oven for about 15 minutes. This is also a great way to use up some of your day-old bread.

Once the bread is dried, transfer the mixture into a large bowl and set aside. Prepare a cup of shucked oysters either by shucking them yourself or buying pre-shucked oysters. If shucking by hand, using an oyster shucker is key.

oyster shucker
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Cook the bacon until crispy and leave the bacon fat in the pan. Add the chopped shallots and 5 ribs celery (which has been chopped) to the bacon fat and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until soft. Add in the fresh thyme leaves and chopped sage and cook 1 minute.

Meanwhile, combine the drained oyster liquor with enough broth (Either vegetable or chicken broth) to equal 2 cups of liquid. Add the liquid to the pan, bring to a boil, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour it into the large bowl with the bread stuffing. Stir in the chopped bacon, chopped oysters, and fresh parsley and toss to coat. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake 30 minutes and remove the cover. Bake until browned, about an additional 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.

Watch: Venison Stuffing Recipe

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New England Oyster Stuffing 

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 75 minutes

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb white bread (We like airy ciabatta or French loaves, but anything will work)
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 5 ribs celery
  • 2 tbs fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbs fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 cup shucked oysters (Often sold in 8 oz containers)
  • 2 cups broth (Up to 2 cups, you may need less)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 250 F.

Drain the oysters to separate them from their liquor. Refrigerate and reserve both.

Cut the bread into uniform 1/2 - 3/4 inch cubes, then arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Dry them out in the oven, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl when done, then raise the oven temperature to 325 F.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and reserve about 3 tbs bacon fat in the pan.

Stirring occasionally, cook the shallots and celery over medium heat in the bacon fat until soft, about 10 minutes.

Stir in thyme and sage and let cook about 1 minute.

Combine the oyster liquor with enough broth to make 2 cups of liquid.

Add the oyster liquid, salt, and pepper to the vegetables. Bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour into the mixing bowl with the bread crumbs. Stir in bacon, parsley, and oysters. Toss well.

Transfer stuffing to a buttered 3 or 3/12 quart baking dish.

Bake, covered, in the 325 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cover, and bake until browned, about 30 minutes. If it looks too dry, drizzle on melted butter or stock.

Notes

If making ahead, stop just before adding the oysters. Those can be stored separately then added in just before baking.