Uncle Frank’s Oyster Dressing

12.22.2020 | In Recipes

Chiqui Collier, chef, cooking teacher, author, Cookery N'Orleans Style

“You cannot think about Louisiana without thinking about food!” For cookbook author, cooking teacher, and former chef Chiqui Collier, a meal isn’t just food on a plate. It’s a window into her family’s history and the history of Louisiana.

Born in the Lakeview area and raised in Gentilly Woods, Chiqui, the daughter of an Italian father and Spanish-Guatemalan mother, now lives in Mandeville. “In our household, ‘just some’ is not enough. You want to be able to go back for seconds!” In Chiqui’s recipes, rich flavors, a generosity of spirit (and portions), and family memories abound. As Chiqui tells it, “Our house growing up was an open house. Anyone and everyone was welcome”—and there was always enough food

Following her mother’s death, Chiqui wanted to create a way to pass on her family’s history. “At the time of her death,” Chiqui says, “my mother only had three grandchildren. As the years went by and there were more and more, I wanted my children to know my mother.” Chiqui’s mother was a painter, but she was best known for her cooking. And so Chiqui wrote a cookbook, Cookery N’Orleans Style.

Uncle Frank’s Oyster Dressing is a family favorite. Uncle Frank was, in fact, Chiqui’s father’s brother-in-law, whose own father first came to Louisiana in the 1840s from Duba, a small fishing village on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Originally settling in Plaquemines Parish, the Croatians are known for having started the commercial oyster fishing industry in Louisiana, and Uncle Frank inherited the recipe.

Uncle Frank’s Oyster Dressing has become a Collier family staple. As Chiqui’s nephew Jacques Hebert tells it, “I remember many a Christmas morning walking into the kitchen, inhaling the aromatic fragrance of onions and seasonings and knowing I could sneak a few raw oysters before they were put into the dressing. These are the tastes and smells of home in south Louisiana during the holidays.”

Lucky for us, the dressing is anything but a family secret. “In New Orleans, the greatest compliment you can give anyone is to ask for the recipe,” and, Chiqui says, New Orleanians are unique in not holding back on ingredients! She explains, “You don’t have to wonder, ‘why doesn’t mine taste like hers?’”

Not only does Chiqui joyfully share Uncle Frank’s recipe, but she’s keen to point out that “Louisiana oysters are just the best. We prefer to buy them from local oyster companies and specify they are unwashed.” This, she says, is key. “The brininess they give off is crucial to it being a great dish.”

Reflecting on Louisiana’s coast, Chiqui remembers that, after Katrina hit, many worried not only about the oysters—”You can’t have Thanksgiving without oyster dressing!”—but about the whole of the fishing industry. “You just grow up fishing and hunting. It’s big business, it’s people’s livelihoods. It affects everybody here.”

Oyster Dressing Recipe

Yields12 Servings
Total Time1 hr 15 mins

Ingredients

 2 large white onions, finely chopped
 6-10 cloves garlic, finely minced
 2 bunches green onions (scallions), sliced thin (green part too)
 1 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, minced (leaves only)
 1 pt good strong olive oil
 2 loaves stale Po-boy French bread, cubed (French baguette)
 1 qt freshly shucked unwashed oysters & their water
 1 tsp dried thyme and a few fresh sprigs
 ½ tsp. salt
 1 tsp lemon pepper
 few drops of Kitchen Bouquet Browning and Seasoning Sauce

Directions

1

Preheat oven to 350°F.

2

Simmer oysters in their water for about 5 minutes until their edges curl.

3

Add 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme to oysters.

4

Tear French bread into bite size pieces and place in large bowl.

5

Drain oysters over bread so that the oyster juice goes into the bowl with the bread.

6

Remove sprigs of thyme and add oysters to bread (if oysters are large you can chop in half).

7

In a saute pan coat bottom with olive oil and saute white onions until translucent, 3-5 minutes, then add to bread and oyster mixture.

8

Coat bottom of pan with olive oil again and add green onions, parsley and garlic and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes, then add to bread and oyster mixture.

9

Add salt, dried thyme and lemon pepper and mix well.

10

In the same skillet that the onions were sauteed in, add more olive oil and fry the dressing in small batches on a high fire for about 5 minutes, adding a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet to each batch.

11

Spread the cooked dressing in a large baking pan and cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to bake.

12

Bake for approximately 40 minutes until browned.

Note: If also cooking turkey, spoon some of the turkey drippings over the casserole. If you want to make this ahead and freeze it, prepare the Oyster Dressing up to the point of frying. Freeze it in batches by spreading it on a baking pan to cool completely. Wrap tightly first in plastic wrap and then in foil. Defrost in the refrigerator the night before you want to serve it. Remove all wrappings and bake as directed

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Ingredients

 2 large white onions, finely chopped
 6-10 cloves garlic, finely minced
 2 bunches green onions (scallions), sliced thin (green part too)
 1 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, minced (leaves only)
 1 pt good strong olive oil
 2 loaves stale Po-boy French bread, cubed (French baguette)
 1 qt freshly shucked unwashed oysters & their water
 1 tsp dried thyme and a few fresh sprigs
 ½ tsp. salt
 1 tsp lemon pepper
 few drops of Kitchen Bouquet Browning and Seasoning Sauce

Directions

1

Preheat oven to 350°F.

2

Simmer oysters in their water for about 5 minutes until their edges curl.

3

Add 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme to oysters.

4

Tear French bread into bite size pieces and place in large bowl.

5

Drain oysters over bread so that the oyster juice goes into the bowl with the bread.

6

Remove sprigs of thyme and add oysters to bread (if oysters are large you can chop in half).

7

In a saute pan coat bottom with olive oil and saute white onions until translucent, 3-5 minutes, then add to bread and oyster mixture.

8

Coat bottom of pan with olive oil again and add green onions, parsley and garlic and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes, then add to bread and oyster mixture.

9

Add salt, dried thyme and lemon pepper and mix well.

10

In the same skillet that the onions were sauteed in, add more olive oil and fry the dressing in small batches on a high fire for about 5 minutes, adding a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet to each batch.

11

Spread the cooked dressing in a large baking pan and cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to bake.

12

Bake for approximately 40 minutes until browned.

Note: If also cooking turkey, spoon some of the turkey drippings over the casserole. If you want to make this ahead and freeze it, prepare the Oyster Dressing up to the point of frying. Freeze it in batches by spreading it on a baking pan to cool completely. Wrap tightly first in plastic wrap and then in foil. Defrost in the refrigerator the night before you want to serve it. Remove all wrappings and bake as directed

Uncle Frank’s Oyster Dressing