When my husband and I married and our first Thanksgiving rolled around, we were startled to realize that although we had talked about many things before the wedding, we had never discussed and negotiated the all important question of “what kind of stuffing do you like?” Egad!
My family is from Texas where cornbread stuffing is king, and his is from Louisiana where the oyster variety reigns. After weighing the pros and cons of choosing sides, we buried the baster and compromised—and have both—a reasonable approach that can be used for other culinary contests like the great mashed potato versus sweet potato, cranberry relish versus jelly or fried versus roasted turkey debates.
This is a bit of a twist on the traditional oyster stuffing. I love the rye bread—you could also use sourdough, the tang of the bread is a great complement to the other flavorful ingredients. The result is a stuffing that even non-fish lovers will enjoy.
Oyster, Mushroom, Bacon and Rye Stuffing
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
1 one-pound loaf good deli rye bread, cut into small ½ inch cubes
½ pound sliced bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
8 ounces wild mushrooms (any variety), wiped clean, stemmed, and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cups celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 pint shucked oysters, drained and coarsely chopped
2 ½ cups chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Spread the rye bread cubes onto 2 large baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes (switching the pans after 15 minutes) until they are lightly browned. Remove from the oven, cool and then put the bread into a bowl large enough to mix the stuffing.
While the bread is baking, cook the bacon in a skillet over moderate heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain, saving the bacon drippings in the pan.
Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the bacon drippings and then add the onion, celery, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables over moderate heat until they are soft, for about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, place 2 teaspoons of olive oil and heat over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they render all of their liquid and begin to brown a bit. Set aside.
To the bowl with the bread cubes, add the vegetables, mushrooms, reserved bacon, parsley, melted butter and oysters. Stir in the chicken stock and combine the mixture well. Season with salt and pepper and stir again.
Turn the mixture into a large buttered casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes until nicely browned.
Note: the stuffing can be made early in the day and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before baking. If you want to make it a day or two ahead, keep the oysters out and stir them in before baking.