This will be my third Thanksgiving in London and I have to say it’s the holiday that makes me miss home the most. Christmas, Halloween, Easter – they’re all celebrated here. We don’t necessarily celebrate them the same as we would in the States: Christmas Eve we now go to our local pub for dinner rather than gather around my mom’s table with all the family in Wisconsin. But they are still celebrated and new traditions can be good (who wouldn’t like going to a warm, cozy British pub on Christmas Eve??).
But Thanksgiving is any old Thursday here – the kids go off to school, David off to work. Our first Thanksgiving in London I planned a traditional feast on the Thursday evening, hoped to stream the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and maybe even some NFL football. However my plans were foiled by after-school activities, homework, David getting home late, no luck finding the parade on TV and football games that didn’t start until 10:30pm. I realized that Thanksgiving Thursday in London would not be the same as in the States. I’ll admit some tears were shed that first year. But since then we’ve made new traditions and now get together with friends the following Saturday for a proper Thanksgiving meal. There’s no Black Friday the morning after, but that’s not a bad thing.
In the Thanksgiving spirit, I’m sharing my favorite stuffing recipe. I’ve attempted many stuffings over the years and this is my hands-down favorite. I love the traditional flavors – onion, garlic, sage and thyme. Trust me, the oysters do not give a fishy taste, but rather lend a richness and depth of flavor. And for those not celebrating Thanksgiving, make this for Christmas dinner or to go along with your next Sunday roast. It’s a nice accompaniment to turkey, chicken or pork.
Herbed Oyster Stuffing (serves 8 – 10, makes about 10 cups)
Note: Fresh oysters are best. Have the fishmonger shuck them for you. Alternatively, you can use tinned oysters. Stuffing can be assembled, without the oysters, up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, covered. Bring to room temperature and stir in the oysters before baking. If you prefer to bake your stuffing inside the bird, this recipe is enough for a 12- to 14-pound turkey, with some left over for baking separately.
2 loaves Italian or French bread (1 pound, 450 grams total), cut into 3/4″ cubes (about 12 cups)
1/2 pound (225 grams) bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, if needed
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup (15 grams) chopped parsley
1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter, melted
18 oysters, shucked, drained and chopped (3/4 cup or 160 grams)
2 1/4 cups (530 ml) chicken stock or broth
Spread cubed bread in a single layer on a clean surface and let sit until starting to go stale and get a bit dry, about 8 hours (toss every few hours). Alternatively you can speed up this process by baking the cubes in a 325º F (160º C) oven. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Let bread cool. Transfer dried-out bread to a large bowl.
If you haven’t done so already, preheat the oven to 325º F (160º C). Grease a large baking dish (9 x 13″ or 23 x 33cm) using either nonstick spray or butter.
Cook bacon in a 12″ heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.
If bacon rendered less than 1/4 cup (60 ml) fat, add enough olive oil to skillet to measure 1/4 cup (60 ml). Add onions, celery, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper to skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl of bread cubes, then stir in bacon, parsley, butter and oysters. Drizzle with chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, and toss well.
Transfer stuffing to baking dish. Bake, covered with foil, for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes more.
Adapted from Gourmet