We've never had oyster stuffing. Have you? Whoa, it's a lot of work if you're talking about shucking dozens of fresh oysters to chop and bake with your bread cubes. But the payoff (we hear) is that the bread soaks up the oyster liquor, and you get a richness that's beyond what sausage or a little chicken broth can offer. As for the origins of oyster stuffing... it's complicated.
We've read that it comes from the Northeast, but there's ample evidence it's a Southern dish, too, and both make sense. You'd likely find oyster stuffing where you find oysters, and that's in the waters on the East Coast, whether New England, the Lowcountry, or the Gulf. As for why they're in Thanksgiving stuffing, it's the perfect time of year to highlight oysters (tradition dictates you eat 'em in the months that end in "r," after all).
An all-about-stuffing article on Slate points out that cross-country railroads in the 19th century made oysters available—if highly prized—to midwesterners. The article quotes M.F.K. Fisher as saying, "Not every man could buy oysters, God knows, and a Middle Westerner was even prouder than a man from Down East to have those shell-fish on his feast-day."
So, where does that leave us? How about some recipes? Most of these involve using the splashy liquor in the oyster shells to make the stuffing moist and well-seasoned. The one pictured above even uses canned, smoked oysters, so you can skip the shucking.
• Oyster Stuffing, from Saveur.
• Herbed Oyster Stuffing, from Gourmet.
• Oyster Brioche Stuffing, from Martha Stewart Living.
• Smoked Oyster and Bacon Stuffing, from Everyday Food (pictured above).
• Read the Slate article: The Good Stuff.
Who eats oyster stuffing out there? Where do you think the tradition comes from?
Related: Oysters, Crab, and Shrimp! A Tour of Louisiana Seafood