By Susan Benton
Fall in South Walton is a time to celebrate cooler temperatures, less crowded beaches, local cuisine, and to appreciate family and friends during Thanksgiving week in South Walton. For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal includes seasonal dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. The holiday feast dates back to November 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth for an autumn harvest observance. Shellfish was also in abundance at the original Thanksgiving dinner, especially oysters, and Gulf seafood certainly has a place on my table, and in my oyster dressing.
I’m of the opinion that being grateful is good for your health, and giving thanks can positively impact your life. This season pause to acknowledge the blessings around you, as it may provide spiritual peace and a renewed outlook. Happy Holidays!
Worthy of a space on your Thanksgiving table, try this Panhandle inspired oyster dressing:
2 large French baguettes, cubed
3 ounces thick bacon, diced
1 stick unsalted butter
2 celery stalks, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ small onion, finely diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
½-teaspoon garlic powder
½-teaspoon cayenne pepper
½-teasppon fresh ground black pepper
36-shucked oysters, halved (and 1-cup oyster liquor)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 large eggs
1-teaspoon Crystal hot sauce
1-teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 10-by-14-inch shallow baking dish or large cast iron skillet. In a separate large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the butter and let melt, then add the celery, green pepper, onion and minced garlic and cook until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the paprika, garlic powder and cayenne and cook for 3 minutes while stirring.
In a large bowl, add the baguette. Spoon the bacon mixture on top. Add the oysters and the oyster liquor along with the fresh parsley.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl with the hot sauce and salt. Pour the eggs into the larger bowl and mix everything together. Scoop the dressing into the baking dish or skillet and bake on the top rack for 45 minutes, until heated through. The top should appear golden and crispy. Serve immediately.
Susan Benton is a food and travel journalist, blogger, and the owner of 30AEATS.com where she shares her passion and her commitment to promoting local farmers, fishermen, chefs, artisans and restaurants along the Gulf Coast.