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Red Oyster Bread Dressing and Other Native Cajun Dressings
Makes a great side dish!
Many Cajun cooks know a secret about oyster bread dressings - they aren't just for a holiday turkey based meal! Oyster bread dressings make a great accompanying side dish whenever oysters are in season.
Down along the bayous of Terrebonne Parish, we learned our use of oysters as a staple foodstuff from living among the Native Americans along the coast.
Our Great-grandfather, Emile Navarre, was a firm believer in the old adage about only eating oysters in the months that ended with the letter "R." This made sense, because he was born in 1862, in the days before refrigeration and eating a spoiled oyster might have been a death sentence.
Turns out the maxim about oysters is based on a sound principle, even though Gulf water oysters can spawn year round due to warmer waters - the oysters are simply less flavorful during warmer weather months. The facts are, warmer weather oysters are fatty, watery, soft and don't taste as good. Emile preferred to stick to the months of September, October, November, and December for eating oysters. Luckily, today good oysters can be found year round in the grocery stores, thanks to importing from cooler climates and from oyster farms.
Red Oyster Bread Dressing
- 1 large loaf stale French bread
- 1 box Ritz crackers
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 pound chorizo sausage
- ½ finely chopped bell pepper
- 2 stalks finely chopped celery
- 3 minced cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 quarts oysters, drained and washed
- 2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Soak crumbled bread and crumbled crackers in milk and mix well.
- Add eggs and stir well.
- Brown chorizo sausage links, once cooked, drain and dice up and return to pan.
- Sauté onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic.
- Add chorizo.
- Make roux with flour and olive oil.
See Below For Roux Instructions and Balance of Red Oyster Bread Dressing Instructions
Tips on the Art of Making a Proper Roux
To make a proper roux for this recipe, be aware that you are using equal weights of fat and flour. Although butter is the most commonly made roux, this recipe is made with olive oil, which gives it a different flavor.
- Heat the olive oil over a medium heat.
- Slowly add the flour to the oil, whisking constantly.
- Within a couple of minutes the roux will look like cake icing.
- The color of the roux that you want to make is completely up to the cook. I prefer a white or blond roux. This roux has lost it's uncooked smell and just began to develop a toasty fragrance.
- Remove from heat IMMEDIATELY! Be careful: The roux can cause painful burns if spilled.
Continuation of Red Oyster Bread Dressing Instructions:
- Add meat mixture to roux.
- Add bread and cracker mixture and mix well.
- Halve all oysters and gently fold into mixture.
- Place in large, glass baking dish.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garnish with paprika.
- Cover with foil and bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
NOTE: Some of our family members like to spice this recipe up another notch by adding Tabasco.
Rumors About Raw Oysters
Another favorite oyster bread dressing often appeared at weddings or rehearsal dinners. called it her "Wedding Dressing" because it married both oysters and andouille sausage in the same recipe.
- ½ cup butter
- 2 cup finely chopped andouille sausage
- 2 cup finely chopped onions
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped yellow pepper
- 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
- 4 dozen chopped oysters, plus liquor
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 to 4 cups torn stale French bread
- Paprika (to taste)
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the sausage, onions, celery, parsley, pepper, until all are wilted and tender.
- Keep the butter hot, but do not let it burn.
- Stir continuously
- Slowly stir in the chopped oysters and juices.
- Cook the oysters gently for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly
- Add white pepper
- Cover skillet, lower heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Remove lid
- Gradually add bread, continuing to stir
- Add egg
- Recover pot and allow to stand
- Turn contents of pot into glass baking dish
- Sprinkle paprika on top
- Bake uncovered 25 minutes in 350 degree oven
The word "andouille" in French, means to "introduce." Although a French word, andouille in Cajun country, is simply a German sausage. In France, however, andouille is also an insulting comment, made about someone who is silly, or bungling.
Thanks to popular television cooking shows, more people are familiar with andouille sausage, a common place sausage in many Cajun households. there is a close relationship between the Cajun people and the Germans. German settlers were arriving in colonial Louisiana about the same time as the Acadian people arrived.
Many Cajuns today, would be surprised to find out how much German blood flows through their veins. There was a lot of intermarriage between the two cultures. The census takers of the time, were French speaking, and simply converted German names to French. German names like: Zwieg or Zwagg became Labranch; or Wicor became Vicknair, etc.
The Germans were (and still are) expert sausage makers. In the 1700s their sausages, while influenced by the Acadians and the New World ingredients. German sausage recipes became the andouille sausage, once they lived among the French colonists.
The sausages are far removed from the andouille sausage of France, that the Acadians were originally familiar with. Their original sausage was made from the small intestines and stomach linings of hogs. It is far from the sausages of Germany at the same time.
Today these are deep red, spicy, smoked links with lean pork, black pepper, garlic, and sometimes molasses, and natural brown sugar and a host of other "secret" ingredients and special methods of obtaining the right andouille color and taste.
This smoking part of the andouille sausage, is the German secret that gives it the unique darkest of red hue. It has to do with seasoned, fragrant woods - mostly hardwoods that have a certain body, and the knowledge of which of many popular woods, would make the best andouille in the right combinations. Some of the woods used are:
The choice of the woods used, in the right combination and amounts are closely guarded secrets. The choice of the ingredients are also closely guarded secrets. Andouille sausages can vary greatly in quality and taste, depending on the manufacturer or cook.
Corn Bread and Cornmeal
Cornbread and cornmeal are obviously a native to America gift that we received by introduction from our native American cultures. It can be baked, fried, steamed, and even made into puddings. Cajun families quickly adopted many of their recipes to using cornmeal as a primary ingredient.
Most people think of cornmeal as being yellow in color, when actually it comes in different hues of yellow and in white. White is traditionally the favorite type of cornmeal used in the Southern states. For the Cajun people, however, cornmeal takes on a whole new concept -- breakfast.
My Grand'mere and every other woman in the family fed us Coush Coush for breakfast before going to school. I guess it was the Cajun hot/cold cereal dish answer to Cornflakes or oatmeal. Certainly, it was a lot easier on the pocket-book.
It's made by mixing cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper into boiling water. Then, all of this is put into a skillet of bacon fat or butter to be cooked. You almost cook it like a scrambled egg, constantly stirring it into a cereal-like browned crust. Then, it is put in glasses of butter, milk or cream and topped off by cane syrup, fruit preserves, or natural brown sugar. It's eaten with a spoon until everything is gone but the liquid and than drank.
As a kid, it was a great source of embarrassment when non-Cajun children were over to be handed a glass of coush coush with a spoon stuck in it, in front of them. I surely did not want them teasing me on the way to the bus stop with the words coush coush ringing in my ears. Today, I still eat my coush coush whenever I feel a little blue and am missing the simpler days of coush coush mornings.
Nutty Cornbread and Oyster Pan
Peak inside my Grand'mere'sold recipe box and you'll find exactly seventeen different recipes for cornbread. Living near Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary, many of our relatives were employed in the wholesale oyster harvesting industry and it could sometimes counted on that there were lots of oysters for any recipe.
The use of cornbread is a Southern staple in almost all kitchens. Her recipe for cornbread and oyster pan, was one of many family favorites. This is a two part recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) coarse yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup finely sifted flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 finely chopped red pepper
- 1 large beaten egg
- 1 1/2 cups cream, room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons bacon drippings (some use vegetable oil)
- Grand'mere mixed all of these ingredients thoroughly with clean hands. Today, I just blend thoroughly with a low setting in a food processor, Magic bullet, or even a mixer.
- Bake at 425 degree oven until done (when a clean toothpick comes out of testing center).
- Set aside
- 1 loaf torn large loaf stale french bread
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1.2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
- 3 tablespoons butter, plus additional for buttering the dish
- 4 finely minced green peppers
- 1/2 cup corn (either canned or fresh)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cups milk
- 1 cups light cream
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 16 ounces fresh oysters, drained and chopped
- Sauté oysters, green peppers, and minced garlic in olive oil
- Mix in salt, pepper, nutmeg, pecans, and corn
- Add cornbread mixture previously set aside, finely crumbled up
- Add eggs and 1 cups light cream
- Gradually add chicken broth, milk, and french bread in alternating smaller amounts
- Mix thoroughly
- Turn into large glass baking dish
- Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
Serves 12 with leftovers or seconds.