Food Cult: Oyster Dressing

As we enter our week of Thanksgiving and gluttony, I would to pause and give thanks for the many creatures that give up their lives for us at this time of year.

Insert. Silent. Pause. Here.

My little family band gets together with my brothers and their families on the day after Thanksgiving. We have been doing this since 1976; I have not prepared a Thanksgiving meal in my own home since then. Every year, we drive the 600 miles round trip to be with our family to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year we decided to forego our gift giving to each other and donate to Heifer International instead. We’ll still be giving gifts to the young ones, and it will be fun to see them open their presents. We also sing Christmas songs — we are THAT family that could make our own Trapp Family Singers — and I’m looking forward to hearing three-year-old Libbie sing her part in The Twelve Days of Christmas.

For me and some of my family, it just isn’t Thanksmas without oyster dressing. It’s unclear where our family recipe comes from, but my mother started making oyster dressing for our holiday gatherings a long time ago. In fact, I can’t remember when she didn’t make it. It was just always there.

My mom passed away in June, and as the eldest child, it has become my job to bring the oyster dressing. I’ve been making it for events here in our Chicagoland home for a while, but no one loves oyster dressing as well as my brothers and I do. My niece Jessica wrote about our family recipe on her Vanderbilt Wife blog, calling our treasured oyster dressing our “grossest family recipe.” I beg to differ, but as she is allergic to clams, I wouldn’t want her to get sick on oysters. I do, however, want to share the recipe for what I consider to be the crowning glory of our holiday buffet table.


Grandma’s Oyster Dressing

Cooking spray

Four cans frozen or canned oysters (fresh would be fine, but not necessary)
Four ribs finely chopped celery
Four cans mushrooms
One box saltines crushed
one pound butter pats
About two cups of milk

First spray a 4.8 quart (15″ x 10″ x 2″) rectangular casserole dish with cooking spray, and then add a layer of crushed crackers. Begin layering the ingredients. After each cracker layer add some milk and the juice from the mushrooms and oyster cans. You should have about four layers of crackers and three of “goodies.”

Cover it with foil so that it doesn’t dry out and take the foil off for the last 15 minutes so the top gets a little crusty. Bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour until the texture is puffy like a souffle. It is okay to prepare it in advance and let the liquids sink in.

A large Pyrex casserole dish will serve eight people comfortably as a side dish.


And just we’re clear about the popularity of oyster dressing, even the fabled Ree Drummond published a recipe for Oyster Dressing on her Pioneer Woman blog this week. I’m not alone in my love for this succulent awesomeness. Ree’s is a little different from ours; hers is more like traditional tossed bread-cube dressing. Grandma’s Oyster Dressing is more of a souffle-like scalloped oysters. It might be fun someday to make both recipes and see which one we like better!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’m going to take a week off and enjoy my holiday with friends and family. Safe travels to you.

P.S. I’ve been collecting ideas for 25 Days of Christmas — I can’t resist doing it again this year!


2 responses

  1. Happy Thanksgiving, Jennie! I love your traditions (especially the traveling part – I think I enjoy the trip as much as the destination). I’ll have to try your dressing for Christmas Eve. My Italian hubby would probably pass out from the excitement of it all. Hope you have a safe trip.

    xoxo michele

    P.S. – still no Alcott bio’s – boo hoo (I may have to buy a used copy from Amazon) but Arielle and I just started “Little Women and Me” by Lauren Logsted – so far we are loving it!

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE oyster dressing! Thanks for sharing your recipe – Happy Thanksgiving!!

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