Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Corn Bread Oyster Stuffing

Oyster dressing dates back to the 17th century Europe enjoyed by the aristocracy and found in many cook books including the Dutch classic "The Sensible Cook" written by De Verstandige Kok, first published in 1667 according to Albany Institute of History & Art.  Geared towards the upper middle class and social elite, the writings emphasizing a regular and balanced diet, including fresh meat at least once a week, frequent servings of bread and cheese, stew, fresh vegetables and salads. This became one of the most read books of the 17th century. 

Oysters has long been  part of New England cuisine since the first colonists walked the shores settling the coastline of Virginia, Massachusetts and Maine.  While the oyster enjoyed elite status in many parts of Europe, the cultivation of oysters in New England led to its every-day appearance on the table of the common colonist.  This due to the abundance of American oysters in the bays and estuaries.  It did not take long for colonist along these coastlines to fine good usage of Oysters in many stuffing's, dressing and sauces.
By the 18th century, even the poor were sustained by little more than bread and oysters making the mollusk ingredient economically useful for stuffing fowl while providing superb flavors appreciated by the rich and poor.

The term stuffing first appears in English print in 1538.  Although known in Latin as farce, or French (farcir) meaning to stuff.  The team was also commonly used referring to a spiced chopped meat mixture, currently still in use when referring to making sausage.

After 1880, it seems the term stuffing did not appeal to of the Victorian upper class as it did not sound prim or proper, who began referencing it as dressing.  Today, the terms stuffing and dressing are used interchangeably. While in the Southern parts of the United States  it is still more often called stuffing, the New England states properly call it as dressing.
Dressing normally made using white bread, in the South, it often is done using cornbread as this Southern Staple recipe comes from the river banks of Monroe, Louisiana. Handed down generation to generation influenced by the Cajun French culture my mother grew up around yet later marrying her North Dakota Gentleman and finding Texas together to raise their family in San Antonio. Now the recipe has past on to the hands on my wife and son Austin on the original 3"x 5" index cards.   pass on as this recipe combines two savoring delicacies that creates this hearty southern dish. 
First we begin this dish making the corn bread:


Corn Bread:
2   -  strips bacon
1 2/3 - cups buttermilk 
1/2  - cups  vegetable oil
2 1/2 - cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon -  baking soda
1 teaspoon - baking powder
1 teaspoon - salt
1  - egg    
Directions: Oven Cooking

Prepare the pan: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cook bacon until crisp in your 10-inch cast-iron Lodge skillet. Remove bacon strips and set aside to cool. Once cooled, crumble bacon and set aside. Place the skillet with the bacon fat in the oven while mixing the batter.

Prepare the corn bread: In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and vegetable oil. In a large bowl, stir together cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour buttermilk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and mix well. Lightly beat egg separately then gently fold in the egg and crumbled bacon bits. Pour mixture into the hot skillet and bake until golden brown -- 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool in the skillet for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool overnight. Next day, cut corn bread into cubes.
Note: 1) Always wear an oven mit or leather glove when handling heated cast iron to prevent hand injury. That was not on my mothers index card but she always had her special drawer filled with pot holders and oven mits. 
Note: 2)  You can also make buttermilk using whole milk with lemon juice or white vinegar. 
Milk (just under one cup)
1 Tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice
First place tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in measuring cup. Then 
add enough milk to equal one cup. Let stand for five minutes before using. 
If you recipe calls for more, you can double your amount an use as much as needed.

Oyster Dressing:

1/2 cup -  butter
2 cup - diced onion
1/2 cup - diced celery
1/2 cup - diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup  - minced green onion
4 teaspoon -  chopped parsley
1 teaspoon - kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon - ground sage
1/2 teaspoon - ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon -  ground black pepper
36  fresh oysters, chopped with its nature liquor juice
5 cups day-old corn bread, cubed
2 tablespoon water or stock, as needed
Vegetable-oil cooking spray  
Prepare oyster dressing: In a well seasoned 4 quart Dutch Oven, melt butter over medium-heat on stove. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, green onion, parsley, salt, ground black pepper, and ground red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent for about 5 minutes. Add chopped oysters and oyster liquor and simmer for 15 minutes. Add cubed corn bread and mix well. Should mixture appear too dry, add water or stock to moisten as needed. Transfer mixture from stove top to oven and cover with lid. Bake for 25 minutes at 325 (f) degrees. Remove the cover and continue baking until brown -- about 5 minutes. Serve hot.

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