The Stuff (ing) of Dreams

Even on Thanksgiving day — it’s only chance to be a hero — it’s tempting to pass stuffing off as just there.  We expect stuffing to satisfy — as we work our way between zingy cranberry and buttery, sultry mashed potatoes —but not to surprise. It’s just not the dish that makes your eyes light up …until one time it does.

The first taste of Treva Chadwell’s intensely satisfying oyster dressing bids invite to the philosophies of flavor. Is flavor texture — crumbled cornbread nestled in the airy nooks of roughly cut Pugliese? Is it salt—not too little, not too much? Is flavor the naturally, pleasant sweetness that emerges when carrots and celery are cooked just right? Is it the earthy undertones of turkey stock, good crumbled sausage and freshly shucked oysters with their liqueur?

Flavor is all of these things. Flavor is balance. And it is thought.

How about that? Flavor emerges through thoughtfulness in cooking.

“I thought a lot about the way people like their oysters,” said Treva about creating her oyster dressing. “My dad likes his oysters with hot sauce. In Louisiana, you see oysters cooked on the half shell with a little seasoned breadcrumb, so I played with both of those ideas. I went traditional for the seasoning — sage and thyme — but I opted for fresh herbs, because I have bad memories of the dried poultry seasoning in stuffing.”

Sage

This is a stuffing that goes the extra mile — made with spicy breakfast sausage from the local butcher, homemade cornbread, hand-cut rustic Italian bread and freshly shucked oysters in their luscious liqueur.

“Those things helped to moisten the stuffing, and add an earthiness you can’t get without them,” Treva says.

We could have dissected the entire dish in that way, ingredient by ingredient. That’s a thoughtfulness you can taste.

In the best cooking, on Thanksgiving or otherwise, everything in a dish has a reason for being. That reason doesn’t have to be tradition, though it can be. And it can be whim and fancy, too. Whether you make your stuffing with oysters or dried apples, mushrooms or pecans, make it with butter and love and the kind of thought that causes each bite to raise eyebrows.

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We’d love to hear, what’s in your fantasy stuffing?

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