Oyster Dressing

Oyster Dressing

During this time of year, Louisiana Gulf oysters are at their peak with a balanced flavor of salty-sweet and a silky texture with a meaty bite.  Their subtle goodness adapts well to all kinds of preparations and ingredients, which is why they’re figured into so many New Orleans holiday menus.  My relatives celebrate the season with oysters eaten raw, Rockefellered, fried and even chargrilled.  But the dish that reigns supreme has and always will be Oyster Dressing.

I’m the fourth or fifth generation to be making this wonderful dressing which comes together with only a handful of ingredients that enhance, and in no way overshadow, the oyster’s delicate flavor.  It’s constructed with the likes of butter, onions and garlic, thickened with New Orleans French bread and moistened with oyster liquor–that flavorful juice found inside the oyster shells and captured in the containers transporting them from shore to store. All of that produces a deliciously creamy side.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I crave the warmth and familiarity of this dish almost as much as the dish itself.

Oyster Dressing

When purchasing ingredients for this dressing, keep in mind that one pint of Louisiana oysters contains around two dozen oysters.  That ratio can vary significantly with other types of oysters. Okay, the actual number of oysters is not really important here since the oysters are chopped. But there’s no time like the present to point out its significance in other recipes that rely on a certain number of oysters per serving. And that precious oyster liquor? It’s packed with flavor.  So make sure to incorporate it into the dish.  If you end up short of the 1 cup called for in the recipe (see instructions), simply add water or chicken broth.  I don’t recommend using canned seafood stock or bottled clam juice because those flavors are distintively different from the oyster.  But I do have two arguments to support my chicken broth suggestion.  One, it’s very mild.  And two, it mimics that turkey-dripping effect you’d get if you cooked the dressing in the bird–which, I regret, few people do anymore.  With respect to the bread, I know not everyone has access to New Orleans French bread.  The best substitute is probably a French baguette, although you might need to double the amount called for in the recipe since a typical loaf of French bread is at least twice the diameter of the average baguette. And one more thing.  In New Orleans, we always refer to this seasonal specialty as Oyster “Dressing” whether it’s tucked into a bird or baked in a casserole dish. The word stuffing is usually reserved for that boxed item called Stove Top.  Happy Feasting!

Oyster Dressing Recipe

Print Recipe

Print Recipe

1 pint oysters (reserve oyster liquor)
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 8 to 10-inch-long piece of stale French bread*
1 cup reserved oyster liquor (or part oyster liquor, water and/or chicken broth)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs, plus more as needed
Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Strain oysters over a bowl to remove grit and separate them from the oyster liquor; reserve liquor.  Chop oysters and set aside.  In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 stick of butter.  Add onions, green onions and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 3-5 minutes.  While vegetables are cooking, pour oyster liquor into a 1-cup measuring cup and add enough cold water or chicken broth, if necessary, to measure 1 cup.  Add oyster liquor and oysters to pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until oysters are heated through, about 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, place bread in a colander under cold running water until moist; drain and squeeze excess water from bread.  Tear bread into small pieces and gradually add to oyster mixture, stirring between additions, until you reach a very smooth and moist, but not soggy, consistency.  If you run out of French bread before you reach this point, add bread crumbs one tablespoon at a time until the proper consistency is achieved.  Remove dressing from heat and stir in egg and parsley.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon dressing into a buttered 2-quart baking dish.  Sprinkle top with 1/4 cup bread crumbs and dot with reserved 2 tablespoons butter.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Serves 6-8.

*If bread is not stale, lightly toast it in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Stale bread will hold more flavor without falling apart.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
11 Responses
  1. Kathy Lavery says:

    I was raised with oyster dressing at Thanksgiving. I missed having it this year…
    Your recipe looks fantastic! I will try it for Christmas 🙂

  2. Felecia R. says:

    Thanks for sharing this fab dish … I love Louisiana oysters.

  3. Denise says:

    I wish to sign up for your newsletter but can not seem to find a place in which to do it from?????

    • Genet says:

      Hey Denise! I’m having major issues with my newsletter, so I’m exploring other options to keep everyone updated. Right now, the best way to know when I’ve posted something new is to “like” Raised on a Roux on Facebook. You can also add the site to your RSS feed. Sorry about that!

  4. Jimmy Martin says:

    Genet, thanks for the recipe. I have been craving oyster dressing the past few years. Hope everything is going well for you and your family.

    • Genet says:

      Hey Jimmy! So good hearing from you. That particular recipe traces back to Grandma Kirn and Franklin Avenue! We can’t celebrate the holidays without it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Hugs to all!

      • Jimmy Martin says:

        Genet, I did a trial run this weekend. It came out great. My son and I ate the whole thing by Monday. I will need to double the recipe for Thanksgiving. Thanks again.

        • Genet says:

          Yay! That’s what I love to hear. How old is your son now? Mine is 12 and he loves oysters every which way (as do my girls). Thanks for letting me know, Jimmy. I hope you all have a very, very Happy Thanksgiving!!

  5. Barry Begault says:

    My family oyster stuffing has been around over 70 years. Very New Orleanian !

    The Begault’s “New Orleans Oyster Dressing”
    • 1 stick of butter (real butter! Unsalted is fine but not necessary)
    • 1 large onion medium chopped
    • 4 large celery stalks medium chopped
    • 1 large bell pepper medium chopped
    • 1 whole garlic finely chopped
    • 1 bunch green onions medium chopped
    • 1 bunch of parsley medium chopped
    • 1 stale loaf of French bread (or 1- 1/2 bag of seasoned bread cubes)
    • 40 oz. chopped oysters plus liquid (40 oz of oysters 2 -16oz and 1- 8 oz containers)
    • 2 lbs. very lean ground beef
    • 2 large bay leaves
    • 1 teaspoon basil
    • 1 teaspoon thyme
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon or more Cajun Seasoning (if desired)

    In a large cast iron Dutch oven or a large, heavy, pot melt the butter and over medium heat sweat the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, parsley and green pepper until the veggies are soft and the veggies are almost dry with a little salt and pepper. Simultaneously, brown the ground meat in a separate frying pan, adding a little salt and pepper until browned thoroughly. Drain and dispose of the fat.
    Drain the oysters and reserve the liquid for later. While the veggies are cooking, feel each oyster for shell pieces. This is very important. I missed this step the first time I made this recipe and had crunchy dressing; not very good eats. Medium chop the oysters.
    Once the veggies are ready add in the ground meat, and the chopped oysters, and cook over medium heat stirring constantly to blend ingredients. Add seasoning.
    Break up the stale French bread and soak the bread or cubes in the oyster liquid. Squeeze out each bunch of bread or cubes until almost dry and breakup into small pieces and slowly add to the meat, oysters and veggies, until incorporated on medium heat. I usually add a broken-up fist full at a time and stir until integrated. Continue this until all the bread is completely integrated into the mixture and cook until the mixture is very sticky and pulls away from the sides of the pot almost like a ball of dough. This can take some time but the aroma is outstanding. Taste for seasoning. I don’t season too heavily, because I like the natural flavors to come through. More seasoning may be needed especially thyme and basil for that holiday flavor.
    Once cooked, place in a casserole dish and cook covered on Thanksgiving Day at 375 degrees for about an hour until the mix hot and bubbly. I also stuff my bird with this and cook the remaining in a casserole dish.
    I usually make this the weekend before Thanksgiving and freeze it until a couple of days before Thanksgiving/ Christmas and then place it in the fridge to thaw Thanksgiving/Christmas Eve. Makes great next week leftover dressing sandwiches on toast with lots of mayo and a couple slices of turkey breast.

    • admin says:

      Hi Barry! Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe. I’m looking forward to trying it. And I apologize for the delayed response. The past few months have been extremely busy and I ran into some computer issues along the way. I hope all is well with you and yours. Merry Christmas!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *