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Looking for cornbread/oyster dressing recipes and share your success with brining

This Yankee wants to make some cornbread oyster dressing for Thanksgiving. Definitely has to be cooked OUTSIDE the bird. Very lazy, can I use cornbread from the store? Have some challah in the freezer I can defrost and dry out, can I add that? Do you cook the oysters in advance? Can I add some mushrooms to it? Also, thinking about brining the bird and roasting indoors this year (husband usually smokes it on BBQ). Can I use a large cooler to store bird in with lots of ice? Planning for dinner service at 6 p.m., put bird in oven around 2:30 or 3:00, should I brine the night before? Should I worry about bird in cooler (bacteria development!)? How much more ice will I need? What is the optimal brining solution recipe for a 12 lb. turkey? Thanks in advance.

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  1. Most often I make a bread dressing with oysters and make the cornbread variety with sausage.

    Damon Lee Fowler suggests that you combine bread and cornbread, about 3 C. each for the dressing and a pint of well drained shucked oysters and instead of 1/2 C broth in the dressing you add 1/2 C. oyster liquor.

    I have made my own cornbread for dressing but often use the Pepperidge Farms bagged stuff. It is acceptable and it is one less thing to have to bake.

    1. I'm with Candy: stale french or italian bread for the oyster dressing, not cornbread. I do like crawfish-cornbread dressing, or pork sausage in it, too. My grandmother's/mother's old standby dressing is a simple cornbread w/chunks of deboned cooked chicken or turkey in it. I would't use storebought precooked cornbread, it often has sugar added that wouldn't really help the dressing any. Make the cornbread ahead of time & stick it in the freezer...will work just as good as "fresh" cornbread.

      1. I love crawfish corn bread! I am very violently anti-sugar in cornbread but I have never noticed the PF to be sweet. I guess all of the herbs and the vermouth and butter I use in it mask any sweetness. I usually have a bag on hand so I can make some up as a side on demand.

        1. So it sounds like I can make the oyster dressing with challah. I usually make my bread dressing with chicken stock, sauteed onions, celery and mushrooms, salt & pepper,poulty seasoning and a little sage and bake for 30-45 min at 350. Sound OK? Should I cook the oysters in advance or with the dressing?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Diane in Bexley

            No, don't pre-cook the oysters. If you do you will end up with dressing and oysters with the texture of erasers. Just drain the oysters and fold them gently into the dressing before baking and substitute some of or all of the chicken stock with oyster liquor (the juice from the drained oysters).

            1. re: Candy

              And taste the oysters/oyster liquor before adding...flavor varies widely, and commercially shucked oysters are washed before packaging. Sometimes they're not sufficiently "oystery" for me. You can supplement with a tiny bit of bottled clam juice if the seafood flavor is too subtle for your tastes. Your basic seasonings sound great--I'd add garlic, finely chopped green pepper, and a whole bunch of finely chopped flat leaf parsley.

              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                Yes, red & green peppers would make the dressing taste good and look festive. Unfortunately, DH is deathly allergic. Is flat leaf parsley the same as cilantro? My mom is deathly allergic to cilantro.

                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  No, flat leaf parsley isn't the same thing as cilantro/coriander. It is regular old parsley (aka italian parsley)--just not the decorative curly kind, which doesn't have much taste. Parsley is an often overlooked flavor...green, bitter, herby. If you can't add green pepper, then definitely use fresh chopped parsley & a little lemon zest/juice, too.

          2. I brined last year. It was the best, moist, juiciest turkey I ever had. If you are concerned with the cooler and bacteria, I suggest going to Williams-Sonoma, they have brining bags. I used them and was able to keep the turkey and brine in my refrigerator.

            1. Thanks SO MUCH for the WS tip. I called my local store and they will hold a set of bags (they come in 2's) for me as they sold out last year. I have been fretting over storing the turkey in a cooler, which is virtually brand new, and the yuck I would have to clean up after the bird is roasted. This sounds great, like a giant Zip Loc bag I can throw away after.

              1. Plan on brining for 8-12 hours (usually) and then air-drying for at least 2 (or up to 8). You need to let the skin dry in order to keep it crispy.

                I usually brine overnight. I use a cooler with a plastic bag in it outside on the porch.

                1 Reply
                1. re: C. Hamster

                  Air Drying for 2-8 Hours? Never thought of that but seems logical. I'll be sure to try that.

                2. It's worth baking your own cornbread and freezing it ahead if need be as Hungry Celeste suggests. The Pepperidge Farm stuff is too dry and requires adding so much liquid that the dressing ends up heavy. I prefer day-old French bread for oysters but have done it with cornbread as well.

                  Mama always added the oysters to the onions, etc., cooking just until they started to "curl," before turning off the heat. She then gently folded the moistened bread into the onion/oyster mix. Some was cooked inside the turkey, the rest separately and the two combined for serving. Her dressing was beyond delicious.

                  1. WOW, I have been eating Cornbread oyster dressing for all of my 60 years and have never come across so many ideas. A dish has its roots in Texas with variations of it as one goes along the coast heading east. Those folks in La also make it in a tasty way! But to answer some of your questions:
                    * Yes its cooked outside the bird. Use a large pan that takes up the better part of the oven [depending upon how much you want to make of course]. Cook at 350 until the dressing is damp, but firm. Then put on broil and brown the top. Best to keep your mixture less than 3 inches deep. If deeper you will have to reduce the heat, but caution or you can dry it out.
                    * I guess you can use store bought cornbread, but its so easy to make why make the drive.
                    * Do NOT cook the oysters before hand. ADD the fresh oysters AND the juice. How oystery you like it depends on how much you add...I will normally put in about 3 pints or so. I like the smaller oysters since they do not need to be cut up.
                    * Enhance the oyster taste by adding fresh chicken liver and cut up okra or aka "East Texas Oysters". About a pint of each.
                    * You could add mushrooms, but I never have for no other reason other than don't need the extra flavor competing with the oysters.
                    * Sage, YEP and a lot of it, I just add the whole can that I get from the store. Get the ground.

                    When its all said and done the cornbread carries the flavor of the oyster-livers-okra which meld together. Sage and pepper are key ingredients, salt to taste and the key veggies are celery and onions. Some celery salt is also acceptable. Use chicken broth to add more liquid.

                    You want it damp enough to eat without choking on it but not wet unless that is your style. A good brown crusty top adds to the flavor and looks.

                    Be sure to cook enough to have some left over. Then put a bit of butter in a frying pan and add enough water to make your dressing sticky. Fry it up a bit like a pancake only sandwich size. After you get a brown crust put it on a slice of bread with some cranberry dressing to taste, another slice of bread and you got lunch the next day. Almost my favorite way of eating it.

                    You just make yourself a batch of Texas cornbread-oyster dressing...ENJOY

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: SavageSun

                      I have some Jiffy mix corn bread in the pantry. Can I make the cornbread using the recipe on the box, should I enhance it somehow? or is the box mix too sweet? If you have good recipe, please send, thanks!

                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                        Box mix isn't too sweet, but don't put any additional sugar into it. Jiffy has a relatively high proportion of flour to corn, so it's more of a cakey cornbread and will make a smoother textured dressing. If you can find Martha White or White Lily cornbread mix, both of those products yield a coarser cornbread (and I think, a better dressing).