Cornbread and oysters make a classic combination for a Thanksgiving stuffing. In this recipe from Charlie Palmer, the chef uses fresh-shucked oysters, celery root, and slightly dried out cornbread to create a stuffing that has a perfectly moistened texture rather than a mushy one.
What to buy: The oysters must be fresh from the shell. If your shucking skills are not adequate, check out our tutorial or have your fishmonger open them for you, and be sure to reserve their liquid (a.k.a. liquor). Choose oysters that are heavy for their size and smell like the sea. Here’s a few you should know, but do your best to buy whatever’s local. (If you don’t like oysters, mild Italian sausage is a great substitute.)
To save time, you can make your cornbread ahead of time and freeze it. If you don’t want to make your own, buy a pan of good-quality cornbread at a bakery or specialty-foods store.
Special equipment: An oyster knife has a broad, thin, but sturdy and rigid blade. Some have a small hook at the tip to help wedge open the shell. An oyster knife shouldn’t be sharp. The blade has to be just thin enough to insert into the tightly closed shell and strong enough to pop the shell apart without snapping or bending.
Game plan: The heat and time required to safely cook stuffing that’s packed into a good-size turkey usually results in a breast with the flavor of sawdust. The stuffing should be cooked to 160°F, the same internal temperature required for the turkey, so you’d think it would work perfectly. But when the bird is at 160°F and ready to serve, the stuffing (insulated against the oven heat by the bird) is still undercooked and needs at least another 90 minutes in the oven. Which is why preparing your stuffing separately, as done here, is ideal.
The cornbread needs to dry in the oven overnight, so plan accordingly.
- 1Heat the oven to 275°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- 2Using your hands, crumble the cornbread into pieces no larger than 3/4 inch onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spread into an even layer and bake for 15 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cornbread dry out inside the oven overnight.
- 3The next day, transfer the cornbread to a large bowl and set it aside. Heat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter; set aside.
- 4Melt 1 1/2 sticks of the measured butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the celery, celery root, and onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
- 5Add the thyme and celery seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the bowl with the cornbread.
- 6Drizzle the stock or broth and the oyster liquid into the bowl and stir until completely incorporated. Fold in the oysters, eggs, and parsley.
- 7Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish. Cut the remaining 1/2 stick of butter into small pieces and scatter them over the top of the stuffing. Bake until golden brown on top, about 40 minutes.