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Thanksgiving Turkey Oyster Dressing Stuffing

Thanksgiving Turkey Oyster Dressing Stuffing Recipe by Wolfgang Puck
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By Wolfgang Puck, Tribune Media Services

With just a week to go before Thanksgiving, many of us are planning the final touches for the feast, especially the stuffing or dressing for the main-course turkey.

And included in that decision is the question of whether you'll make a stuffing or a dressing.

Though the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a real difference.

Stuffing, as the name implies, is actually stuffed into and cooked inside the bird. Dressing, by contrast, cooks separately in a baking dish.

I always make dressings, for several good reasons.

It's quicker and easier to prepare an unstuffed turkey, and you get moister meat because the bird doesn't have to cook as long.

Without the fuss of packing it into the bird, a dressing is easier to prepare, too, and less hassle to serve. You also get more control over the final flavor and texture of a separately cooked dressing, and the results are healthier because the bread doesn't absorb fat from the turkey.

Now that I've convinced you, I hope, let me share one of my favorite holiday dressings, a traditional recipe featuring fresh oysters, which scholars seem to agree were part of the first Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth in 1621. The shellfish give the bread-based dish a wonderfully sweet, briny flavor and moist consistency. Use only small farmed American or Blue Point oysters, with shells less than 2 inches (5 cm) across; or, if only larger ones are available from your best local seafood source, cut the shucked oyster meat into smaller pieces. Farmed oysters are preferred over wild-caught. (By the way, you can also make a great dressing without oysters at all, just adding some extra sausage meat and mushrooms in their place.)

When I make holiday dressings, I always have to include dried fruit, too, which to me expresses the essence of autumn and winter. My recipe features prunes, dried cherries, and golden raisins, but you could substitute seedless dark raisins, chopped dried apricots, or dates. Fresh baby spinach adds even more color and flavor.

Since I've already mentioned bread, oysters, sausage, mushrooms, dried fruit, and spinach, you may be thinking that my dressing recipe is complicated. In fact, it's very easy to put together. If you like, you can dry the bread cubes in the oven well ahead of time and, after they've cooled, keep them in an airtight container. The actual sauteing and assembly of the ingredients takes only about 20 minutes, and the dressing needs 45 minutes to bake, making it simple to time so it's ready to serve with the main course.

Speaking of which, you'll enjoy the luxurious-tasting results so much that you'll want to serve the dish again soon, maybe with roast pork or chicken -- yet another reason to opt for a dressing over a stuffing!

 

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients - Thanksgiving Turkey Oyster Dressing

1 pound good-quality French bread or white bread
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 pound prewashed organic baby spinach leaves
2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, and quartered
2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, and cut into 8 pieces each
3 dozen shucked small oysters (see above), juices reserved
1 pound fresh Italian pork sausage, cooked and diced
8 pitted prunes, diced
1/4 pound dried cherries
1/4 pound golden raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cage-free eggs
1/2 cup organic whipping cream
1/2 cup organic milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

Preparation - Thanksgiving Turkey Oyster Dressing

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Trim the crusts from the bread. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until dry but not yet browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside.

Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a small saucepan or microwave-proof dish, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Brush a 2-quart (2-l) casserole or gratin dish with the melted butter and set aside.

In a large saute pan, add another 1 tablespoon of the butter and melt over high heat. Add the spinach and saute just until it has wilted. Drain the spinach, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

To the same saute pan over medium heat, add the remaining butter. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the button and shiitake mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the oysters, oyster juice, sausage, spinach, dried fruits, and salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes more, stirring frequently to combine the ingredients. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in the cream and milk until well blended. Add the parsley, sage, thyme, and rosemary. Add the reserved oyster mixture, bread cubes, and spinach and stir until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, with a little more salt and pepper.

Transfer the mixture to the buttered casserole dish. Bake until the dressing is heated through, puffy, and golden brown on top, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

(c) 2008 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

 

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