Cornbread and oysters are a classic combination for Thanksgiving stuffing. In this recipe from Charlie Palmer, the chef uses fresh-shucked oysters, celery root, and slightly dried-out cornbread to create a stuffing with a perfectly moistened, not mushy, texture. Don’t be tempted to cut corners with already-shucked oysters—they must be fresh from the shell. If your shucking skills are more beginner than pro, check out our tutorial or have your fishmonger open them for you, and be sure to reserve their liquid (a.k.a. liquor). Choose oysters that are heavy for their size and smell as fresh and bracing as the sea. A good oyster knife has a broad, thin, but rigid blade—it has to be strong enough to pop the shell apart without snapping or bending. To save time, make our Moist Cornbread well ahead of time and freeze it, or buy a pan of good-quality cornbread from a bakery or quality market. Note that the cornbread needs to dry in the oven overnight, so give yourself time.
Safety note: The heat and time required to safely cook stuffing packed into a good-size turkey usually results in a breast with the texture of sawdust. The stuffing should be cooked to 160°F, the same internal temperature as the turkey, so you’d think it would work out perfectly. But when the bird is at 160°F and ready to serve, the stuffing (insulated against the oven heat by the bird) is still undercooked and needs at least another 90 minutes in the oven. Which is why preparing your stuffing separately, shown here, is ideal.
- Yield: 8 servings
- Difficulty: Medium
- Total: 1 hr 15 mins, plus overnight cornbread-drying time
- Active: 45 mins
- 2 1/2 pounds cornbread
- 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), plus more as needed
- 2 cups medium-dice celery (about 6 medium stalks)
- 1 cup peeled, medium-dice celery root, also known as celeriac (about 1/2 medium celery root)
- 3/4 cup small-dice red onion
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon celery seeds, crushed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 12 fresh oysters, shucked and liquid reserved
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Heat the oven to 275°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Using your hands, crumble the cornbread into pieces no larger than 3/4 inch onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spread into an even layer and bake for 15 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cornbread dry out in the oven overnight.
- The next day, transfer the cornbread to a large bowl and set it aside. Heat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter; set aside.
- Melt 1 1/2 sticks of the measured butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the celery, celery root, and onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme and celery seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the bowl with the cornbread.
- Drizzle the stock or broth and the oyster liquid into the bowl and stir until completely incorporated. Fold in the oysters, eggs, and parsley. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish. Cut the remaining 1/2 stick of butter into small pieces and scatter them over the top of the stuffing. Bake until golden brown on top, about 40 minutes.