I thought I was going to forfeit the ticket to this year’s Thanksgiving recipe frenzy. I thought, for some strange reason, that this year’s Thanksgiving is sitting (impossibly…) on November 18th, and that by the time around November 12th when I start to entertain the idea of a Thanksgiving recipe, that it would already be too late… After all, I heard this is a holiday meal that people plan ahead for. I heard that even before the first leaf turned brown, the happy Californian designer-turkeys still obliviously eating their organic feeds, have no idea that someone in New York has already claimed the right to carve them apart and break their wishbones in two months-time. Better not tell them is what I think.
So the point is, a few days ago I suddenly realized I do have time this year, that it wasn’t too late. I could still do this! I could still… well, here’s where I ran into another problem.
You see… the problem is, I heard that more than the turkey really, that Thanksgiving is secretly all about the “stuffing”… or did I hear “dressing” as well? I heard that the anticipation over the designer-turkey is really all just mandatory and in… coordinated spirits only, that the focus is really on what’s being shoved inside its rear end. So much so, I heard that people bake the “extras” on the side, suspiciously 3-times the amount of what’s actually being stuffed into the bird. Say, mis-calculation?…. or playing clueless at not knowing how much stuff a turkey can actually hold? If you ask me, this all sounds perfectly logical as we all know that underneath that roasted turkey’s superficially glistening and browned skin-suit, there’s nothing but a whole lot of bore and dryness, so she’s really got nothing to complain about if all that people want from her is to stare at what’s on her ass. So I guess, I should focus on that as well. Yup…
Oh right, yeah, the problem. I mean, so… this “dressing” thing… what is it supposed to taste like again?
Uhm… yeah, I believe I’ve never… actually… eaten a Thanksgiving dinner.
It’s ok to feel the urge to pat my head… I’m not offended. But let’s not get into the “how!!?“, because it’ll turn into an obnoxiously long description of self-pity and clear life-long personality defects. Let’s focus on the stuffing (…or “dressing”… whatever). Due to lack of experience in direct contact, I’ve been searching for answers online which inversely aided the confusion. Liquid-soaked breads of various kind that are baked with an assortment of vegetables, partial proteins, herbs and spices? Really? I grew fairly certain at the unspoken reason why stuffing/dressing isn’t made on any other day of the year but Thanksgiving… It’s conveniently inappropriate for anyone to complain when the meal is all about being “thankful”. But just when I was about to toss out all this stuffing/dressing experiment, a stand-out recipe caught my attention.
Oyster stuffings? Oh now we’re talking.
Every authentic, discerning, self-respecting food-lover should rejoice at the idea of putting oysters in more things we eat. Right? Right, I knew you’d agree. And more important than the presumable deliciousness that the original recipe describes, is the possibility it arouses. What goes really really well with oysters?
It is crazy. It’s kimchi.
A Korean tradition that is rapidly gaining popularity on a global scale. And who knew! Oysters and kimchi, they simpatico! You didn’t know about this? Well you should definitely do now. Go, go ahead. Go get yourself some shucked oysters. In fact, if unavailable, go to extreme measures to shuck them yourselves! Because this, is worth it. Because this. Is so. Good. Good as in I don’t think I can handle making it only once a year. Good as in we, who thought we would have no adequate dinner to eat that night, ended up ravaging this stuffing/dressing with nothing else but more stuffing/dressing. And with whatever part that was left of it chilling in the fridge since, all I could think about is re-heating it for snacks.
In fact, what am I waiting for…
Serves: 4 ~ 5 (double the recipe for a larger group)
I used partly medium-size oysters and partly small-size Asian oysters for this recipe. I did it because Asian oysters are cheaper and robust in flavours. But for some reason on the day I went to the market for it, there were only MINI-SIZE oysters left so I had no choice but to use them, and they shrunk considerably during cooking. In conclusion, I think oysters (flesh only) that are about 1 1/2″ (4 cm) in length would be perfect for this use. You can buy oysters that are already shucked of course, or here’s how to shuck them dead.
On a small note, celery seems to be universally endorsed as a must stuffing-ingredients… or so it seems. I didn’t have it at the time and so I excluded it from the recipe. If this violates your holiday principle strongly, feel free to add 1/4 cup of finely diced celery stalk back in with shallots and garlic.
Ingredients: based on an original oyster-stuffing recipe from Saveur
- 3 tbsp (43 grams) of unsalted butter
- 3 strips of bacon, diced
- 3 medium shallots, finely diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tbsp of chopped fresh sage
- 1/8 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp of ground cloves
- 2 cups (330 grams/11.6 oz) of kimchi, chopped
- 1 tbsp of Korean gochujang (red chili paste)
- 1 1/2 tbsp (6 grams) of dried porcini, no need to soak but cleaned and chopped
- 1/8 cup of Brandy
- 1/2 cup of chicken stock
- 1/2 cup of oyster liquor
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 5 1/2 cup (150 grams/5.3 oz) of rustic bread, cubed (the weight was measured after baking)
- 20 medium-size, or 40 Asian small-size shucked oysters (250 grams/8.8 oz)
- 1 tbsp of tabasco sauce
- To finish:
- 1 1/2 tbsp of unsalted butter
- 1 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1 tbsp of fresh sage, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven on 400ºF/200ºC.
Lay the bread cubes evenly on a sheet-tray and toast in the oven until medium-browned, approx 10 ~ 15 min. Set aside.
In a sauce pot, cook unsalted butter and diced bacons with 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper over medium-heat, until the butter is browned and the bacons are crispy. Add the diced shallots, minced garlic, thyme leaves, chopped sage, grated nutmeg and ground cloves. Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the chopped kimchi, Korean gochujang paste and dried porcini, and cook for another couple of minutes to caramelize slightly. Then add the brandy and cook until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the chicken stock and oyster liquor (substitute with chicken stock if you don’t have enough oyster liquor), and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with more sea salt and ground black pepper if needed. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly for 10 minutes.
Place the toasted bread cubes and oysters in a large bowl, then pour the kimchi/stock mixture into the bowl. Add 1 tbsp of tabasco sauce and fold all the ingredients together evenly with a spatula. Careful not to break the oysters. Let the mixture sit for 10 ~ 15 minutes for the flavours to mix.
Lightly butter a shallow baking-dish, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 min (for small-size oysters), or 25 min (for medium-size oysters). Meanwhile, melt 1 1/2 tbsp of unsalted butter in a small pot, then add grated garlic, thinly sliced sage and ground black pepper. Turn off the heat once the mixture is fragrant.
Remove the foil from the baking-dish, and drizzle the garlic butter evenly over the dressing. Bake in the oven for another 15 min until the top is crispy and browned.