I can’t remember if I had any New Years resolutions last year (oh lookie, I did!) but I can proudly say that I followed through on all five of my Friday Five resolutions this past weekend. On Saturday afternoon, my roommate and I took over the kitchen, prepared to create a feast for friends the following day.
I was happy to have a partner in crime in the kitchen, especially as I realized what a daunting task making my chosen oyster stuffing recipe would be. Laddan did most of the heavy lifting and provided the dish with both skills and knowledge that helped make it easily one of the best twenty things I’ve ever tasted.
It takes a sharp knife and incredible patience to julienne the six whole shallots that would provide a consistent texture throughout the dish. Even though we didn’t really have the former, she came through with her abundance of the latter.
The rest of the recipe consisted of an endless array of delightful items added to the crusty pieces of baguette: freshly ground nutmeg, flat leaf parsley, bacon fat, cloves, Madeira. While each ingredient was perfectly nice on its own, we knew that combined, they’d be incredible. I’d done my homework in foraging for everything we needed, but forgot that we’d run out of Tabasco. Unwilling to allow me to commit the heresy of substituting sriracha, Laddan mixed up her own, with cayenne and white vinegar. The resemblance was uncanny.
The oysters came pre-shucked and in their own oyster liquor (the juices that come from the oyster when they’re shucked). I haven’t always liked oysters. Being under the influence of Maya has helped to alter my taste buds to accept – and even to crave – these little guys.
Old and new loves combined, as we decided to use the bacon (not just its fat, as the recipe suggested) in the stuffing. The result was a perfect mixture of briny, savory bites, each promoting a different flavor, all complementing one another. Moist and tender, even after reheating it, the stuffing demanded to be served up in the round of seconds. And at the risk of sounding sentimental, I have to say that the time in the kitchen with Laddan added to the astounding mix of flavors.
Saveur, Issue #115
11 cups 1⁄2″ cubed white French bread (about 14 oz.)
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1⁄4″ strips
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for
greasing the pan
6 shallots, thinly sliced
4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
40 medium oysters, such as bluepoints,
shucked (about 1 lb.), with 1 cup of the
1 cup chicken stock
1⁄4 cup madeira or port
1⁄3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tbsp. chopped thyme leaves
2 tbsp. chopped sage leaves
1⁄2 tsp. Tabasco
1⁄4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat oven to 250˚. Arrange bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, stirring occasionally, until dried but not browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
2. Put bacon into a 12″ skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until crisp and its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. Add 4 tbsp. of the butter and heat. Add shallots and celery, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add oyster liquor, stock, madeira or port, parsley, thyme, sage, Tabasco, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the bread cubes and oysters. Set aside to allow the flavors to come together for 10 minutes.
3. Raise the oven temperature to 400˚. Transfer mixture to a buttered 2-qt. oval baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, drizzle with remaining butter, and continue baking until golden brown and crusty, about 30 minutes more. Serve immediately.