This is a great, traditional South Louisiana Oyster Dressing. There's nothing complicated about combining lots of onions, celery, and parsley with traditional seasonings, rich poultry flavor, and tons of fresh oysters laced together with traditional day-old french bread. If you're looking for a traditional Oyster Dressing, this simple no-angst recipe welcomes you to South Louisiana!
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South Louisiana Tradition
Family traditions in Southern Louisiana usually center around food which helps maintain strong bonds and sustain family values for future generations. The holidays are a special time for families that have grown and spread beyond the region. Your momma's or her momma's recipes serve as beacons for family members anxious to connect. Of all the special recipes, it's the dressing or stuffing that people remember and yearn for. In South Louisiana, that usually means oyster dressing. I've introduced readers to some of my mother-in-law's holiday recipes which only begin to form the foundation of our family traditions. This Oyster Dressing Recipe is perhaps Grammie's (as she is known to more grandkids and great-grandkids than I can count) most popular family favorite. Talk about no-angst and letting the ingredients do the talking, this recipe will give you a hint of why oyster dressing is so popular in South Lousiana. You'll be adding this recipe to your Holiday feasts for years to come. You can check out some of Grammie's other great recipes later in this article.
Here’s What You Need
Tip: Make sure to use dark chicken or turkey meat for this part because that adds much more flavor and fat than white meat.
Full disclosure: There were no thyme or bay leaves in Grammie's original recipe but I couldn't resist adding a little of those to the stock. We don't use much of the stock in this recipe, so don't tell Grammie! She'll call me a couyon and hit me with that big wooden spoon she gave me for just such an occasion!
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Here is some of the equipment I used to prepare this recipe:
Stockpot, Dutch Oven, Cutting Boards, Chef's Knife, Prep Bowls (Cambro), Prep Bowls (Glass), Glass Measuring Cups, Metal Measuring Cups and Spoons, Small Food Processor, Kitchen Strainer, Garni Bags, Baking Dish
Here’s What You Do
First...you have a beer. There seems to be a lot going on here, but it's not as complicated as it seems. Still, that's all the more reason to properly prepare the ingredients, equipment and most of all the cook. Read the recipe all the way through to see what you need and what you will do with all of it. This recipe can be made in stages the day before. Read more about that in the Hints and Tips section. Mise en place is extra helpful for this recipe.
Mise en Place
We will prepare ingredients for both the stock and poultry as well as the dressing. Either, or both, can be done the day before.
Prep for the stock/poultry
Cut the onion in half through the ends, chop the celery into 2 or 3-inch pieces, slice the garlic head in half crossway. Place the thyme, broken bay leaves, and peppercorns in a garnie bag. Tie the parsley together with butcher twine.
Rinse the thighs and pat dry with a paper towel.
Tip: Check out the Hints and Tips section if you don't want to mess with making a stock.
Prep for the dressing
Drain the oysters and retain the liquid. Cut the french bread into ¼ - ½ inch cubes. Roughly chop all vegetables and place ingredients going in together in the same prep bowl. Combine all the Herb and Spice ingredients except ground sage into one prep bowl. When stock is ready, set aside 1 cup.
Cooking the poultry and stock
What happens in this step? The rich flavor begins here by preparing the chicken thighs and turkey neck meat, which combine for foundational flavor. The stock is rich and delicious and will be used to a lesser degree, thus leaving you some great stock for other recipes.
Tip: This step can be done the day before and kept in the refrigerator until needed. See the Hints and Tip section below.
Brown the chicken thighs, skin side down in a hot stockpot over medium-high heat. Turn the thighs over after 4 or 5 minutes and add the turkey necks. Continue to brown the thighs and necks for about 5 minutes, turning the necks every couple of minutes. Remove the thighs and necks, leaving the rendered chicken fat.
The onions and garlic go into the stockpot, cut side down. Throw in the celery and brown the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Make sure to leave the cut side down the whole time.
Once the onions and garlic are browned, add the thighs, necks, parsley, and Garni bag. Increase the heat to high and add 8 cups of cold water, stir.
Bring the stockpot to a boil before reducing the heat to a very low simmer.
Tip: After about 10 or 15 minutes you will notice some froth or residue on the surface of the stock. I never have liked the way that stuff looks, but it really doesn’t affect the flavor. However, if you don’t remove it, it will eventually break down in the stock and make it cloudy and less than appealing. Just take a spoon or a skimmer and lift it out. You should only have to do it once if you do a good job. That combined with keeping the stock on the lowest possible simmer will make it more clear.
Simmer with the stockpot partially covered for about an hour. Remove the thighs at this time then continue a low simmer for another 30 minutes and it should be done. Remove the necks and let them cool with the thighs.
Allow the stock to cool, then strain it. This should yield about 6 cups of stock. Once the meat has cooled, pull the thigh meat off the bone and pull the turkey meat off of the neck bones. Place that in a small food processor, sprinkle on some Creole seasoning before pulsing to a fine grind. This should yield 4 to 5 cups of ground poultry meat. Discard the vegetables, bones, and skin. Set the ground poultry and stock aside. Check out the Hints and Tips section below for ideas on straining the stock and grinding the poultry.
Start the dressing with the veggies and poultry
What happens in this step? In this step, we start to construct the dressing by building the first layer of flavor with the vegetables and poultry,
Add vegetable oil to a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add the yellow onions, celery, and green onions. Fry them for about 10 minutes until the yellow onions are translucent. Stir often during this stage so the onions don’t scorch.
Mix in the ground chicken and turkey and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add all the Herb and Spice Blend except the sage.
Tip: While the vegetables and meat are simmering, add about 2 to 3 cups of oyster juice to the bread cubes, save any remaining juice. Mix well and set aside, stirring once or twice.
Add oysters and breading
What happens in this step? Oysters provide a subtle, contrasting flavor that drives the whole thing. This is the step where that flavor is established and bound together by the day-old french bread.
After the poultry meat has simmered with the vegetables for about 15 minutes, add the raw oysters (not the juice) and the parsley. Mix completely. Cook everything until the oysters curl up and the liquid reduces, about 5 to10 minutes.
Tip: The oysters will release liquid as they cook, so use that to deglaze the pan, if needed.
Add the soaked bread cubes (make sure to add some of the oyster juice to the bread cubes while you're cooking the poultry meat and veggies) and sage to the vegetables and oysters and mix well to combine. Add the remaining oyster juice (if any) and more bread if needed. Remain on low heat for about 5 minutes.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and cover. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
Bake the dressing
What happens in this step? Now we have weaved all these flavors together, it's time that we sealed the deal by baking it into one, homogeneous flavor.
Prepare a baking dish with non-stick spray, oil, or softened butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking dish with nonstick spray, oil, or softened butter then fold the oyster dressing into it and spread evenly.
Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until browned and bubbling around the edges.
Remove from the oven and set aside for about 10 minutes.
Hints and Tips (FAQs)
Yes, this recipe can be made in total or in parts a day or two ahead. You can prepare the thighs and necks the day before with the stock. You can likewise make the whole recipe the day before up to the point of baking, or actually all the way through baking. Make sure to allow the prepared food to cool, then use an airtight container to hold it in the refrigerator. The next couple of FAQs may also be helpful to you.
Leftovers will be fine in the fridge for 3 to 4 days if held in an airtight container. Reheating the oven, stovetop, or microwave. I find the quality is better if we reheat the amount we are going to eat, rather than reheating the entire amount multiple times. Check out the next question for more about freezing.
Yes, this recipe can be frozen either before or after baking. In either case make sure to use a freezer-safe container, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil. Make sure the dressing is cooled before placing it in the freezer. Properly sealed, this can be frozen for 3 weeks to a month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat a previously baked recipe in a 350 Degree Fahrenheit oven until the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you chose to freeze before baking, defrost as above and bake according to the recipe instructions.
The short answer is yes. Actually, they are basically the same thing as far as ingredients go, but the cooking method and the region in which it is prepared may distinguish the difference. As the name implies, a stuffing is cooked inside (stuffed into) the turkey, fowl, or meat while a dressing is cooked in its own dish. At the same time, if you are from the deep south, your family tradition is generally dressing, while your cousins from elsewhere in the country can't wait for Grandma's stuffing. Like most regional things in cooking, there are more options than just dressing or stuffing, but we'll save those for another time.
A couple of other things to think about: When cooking stuffing inside the bird, the flavor profile is influenced by the juices rendered while cooking. In South Louisana, seasonings may be adjusted to make up for this. It's also important to recognize the food safety aspects of cooking stuffing. Make sure to take extra care that the stuffing deep inside is cooked to the recommended 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Here's what the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says about this and other food-safety topics with stuffing and dressing. It may be a challenge to cook the stuffing to a safe temperature while not over or under-cooking the bird. Too much to think about, so I'll have another beer and wait for the dressing to be finished!
You can keep this simple by simply using a kitchen strainer. Placing some cheesecloth in the strainer works well but I have also found it very effective to use a double layer of damp paper towels in the strainer. If you don't have a strainer, use a colander with cheesecloth or paper towels.
Grammie likes to use a food grinder with a medium-size chopper plate. If you don't have or don't feel like messing with a food processor or a food grinder, you can finely chop the poultry meat with a chef's knife.
This is a great opportunity to make a very simple but delicious stock. It's the best way to cook the chicken thighs and turkey necks. We don't use much of the stock in this recipe, but the extra can be frozen and used in lots of other recipes. But if you really don't want to mess with it, just cook the poultry, discard the liquid and substitute this commercial chicken stock. It will be simpler and even less angst. Think about that before you do it because the stock would be helpful in lots of other holiday recipes.
Here are some other great Holiday Side dishes from Sweet Daddy D:
Check out more of Grammie's recipes here on First...You Have a Beer:
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Yeah You Right!
Grammie’s Oyster Dressing
Here's What You Need
For the stock and poultry
- 4 chicken thighs bone-in skin on
- 2 turkey necks
- 2 cups yellow onions
- 1 cup celery
- 1 head garlic
- 6 sprigs parsley
- 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
- 10 Whole Black Peppercorns
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
For the dressing
- 1 quart oysters with juice
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups yellow onions rough chop
- 2 cups celery rough chop
- 1 bunch reen onions
- ½ cup parsley chopped chopped
- 6 cups stale french bread ¼ to ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup Chicken Stock as needed-see Notes
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sage
Here's What You Do
Prepare the poultry and stock
- Cut the onion in half through the ends, chop celery pinto 2 or 3-inch pieces, slice the garlic head in half crossway.
- Make a garnie bag with thyme, broken bay leaves, and peppercorns. Tie the parsley together with butcher twine.
- Rinse the thighs and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Place a large stockpot over medium-high heat
- When hot, place chicken thighs in a stockpot, skin side down. Brown chicken for about 4 or 5 minutes, then turn over and add the turkey necks. Continue to brown the thighs and necks for about 5 minutes, turning the necks every couple of minutes.
- Remove the thighs and necks, leaving the rendered chicken fat.
- Place the onions and garlic into the stockpot, cut side down. Add the celery. Brown the vegetables for about 5 minutes leaving the onion and garlic cut side down.
- Once browned, add the thighs, necks, parsley, and Garni bag.
- Increase the heat to high. Add 8 cups of cold water, stir.
- Bring the stockpot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a slight simmer. After 15 minutes, skim the impurities off the top.
- Maintain a very low simmer, partially covered for about 1 hour (total), then remove the thighs and set them aside to cool.
- Continue to low simmer the thighs for another 30 minutes. , then remove them and set them aside to cool.
- Strain the liquid and discard the vegetables.
- Once the thighs and necks are cool, remove the chicken skin and pull the meat off the bones. Strip the meat off the turkey necks. Set aside.
- Place the chicken and turkey meat in a small food processor. Sprinkle a little Creole seasoning on top and grind until fine. May need to do this in batches. Set aside. (See Notes)
Make the dressing
- Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil.
- When hot, add the yellow onions, celery, and green onions and fry until the yellow onions are translucent, 10 minutes.
- Add the ground chicken and turkey meat. Mix well and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the Herb and Spice Blend (except the sage)
- While the vegetables and chicken meat are simmering, add about 2 to 3 cups of oyster juice to the bread cubes. Mix well and set aside, stirring once or twice.
- After the poultry meat has simmered with the vegetables for about 15 minutes, add the raw oysters and the parsley. Stir to mix completely.
- Oysters will release liquid as they cook, so use that to deglaze the pan, if needed.
- Cook until the oysters curl up and the liquid reduces. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add about 6 cups of the soaked bread cubes to the vegetables and oysters and mix well to combine.
- Add the ground sage and mix thoroughly. Add the remaining oyster juice (if any) and more bread if needed. Remain on the heat for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and cover. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
Bake the dressing
- Prepare a baking dish with non-stick spray, oil, or softened butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fold the oyster dressing into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.
- Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling around the edges.
- Remove from the oven and set aside for about 10 minutes.