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Corn Bread Dressing with Oysters and Ham

To shuck an oyster, protect your nondominant hand with a kitchen towel. Hold the oyster in this hand, flat side up, with the narrow hinge end toward you. Insert an oyster knife between the shell halves, just beside the hinge. Gently twist the knife and the halves will separate. Pour out and reserve the oyster liquor. Run the knife along the inside top shell to cut the muscle, then slip the knife between the oyster and the bottom shell to release it. If fresh oysters are not available, look for refrigerated jarred oysters.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1⁄4 lb. firm, smoky baked ham, diced
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and light green
     portions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1⁄4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 5 cups crumbled day-old buttermilk corn bread
     (see related recipe at left)
  • 4 cups torn-up slightly dry firm white bread
  • 18 oysters, freshly shucked, with liquor reserved
  • About 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium
     canned chicken broth
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the ham and sauté until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the yellow onion, bell peppers, green onions and thyme. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, toss together the corn bread, white bread and ham mixture with any juices from the pan.

Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth, place over a measuring pitcher and strain the oyster liquor through it. Add enough stock to the oyster liquor to equal 2 cups. Combine this liquid and the eggs and pour over the bread mixture. Add the salt and pepper and stir again.

To bake the dressing alongside a turkey in a 325°F oven, position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spoon half of the dressing into the prepared dish. Space the oysters evenly over the dressing without letting them touch the sides of the dish. Spoon the remaining dressing over the oysters, spreading it to the edges of the dish. Bake until the dressing is steaming and the top is lightly browned, about 1 hour. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve hot.

To bake the dressing in a turkey, mix the oysters into the bread mixture. Loosely stuff the turkey with dressing and truss the larger opening; increase the roasting time of the turkey by 35 to 45 minutes. Generously butter a baking dish and spoon in the remaining dressing. Bake, uncovered, until the dressing is steaming and the top is lightly browned, about 1 hour, depending on the size of the baking dish. Serve hot. Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Thanksgiving, by Michael McLaughlin (Simon & Schuster, 2001).