Our New Orleans elders and those who respect the old guard serve oyster dressing with their roast turkey. I wouldn’t dream of Thanksgiving without it. However, an influx of newcomers might be changing the menu. In old New Orleans, as in the present, gumbo, turtle soup or oyster soup is served first, followed by the roast turkey and oyster dressing. A myriad of dishes follow, but another expected dish is rice dressing.
Why is Thanksgiving special? After all, the early Pilgrims weren’t such great folk. They muscled their way onto this continent and used weapons not available to its indigenous population to seize land, food and people while eliminating anyone who got in the way. They brought diseases that tribes had no means to combat. They broke up homes and destroyed villages and sacred grounds.
Before and since the Americans purchased New Orleans from the French, New Orleans has remained unique and distinct, nearly 220 years later, we still spurn convention. Thanksgiving is no exception. We celebrate with oysters: Oyster Soup or Stew and Oyster Dressing (you’ll find the recipes below). Not just oysters, oysters seasoned in whole or in part with our “holy trinity” — bell pepper, onion, and celery, the divine secret of New Orleans’ cuisine and even our Thanksgiving menu. We then double-down and add garlic, green onion, fresh herbs and a dash of cayenne.
It was refreshing to hear Inspector General Ed Michel tell the City Council on Tuesday (Nov. 15) about his plans to audit or investigate an important group of city departments and agencies showing a troubling performance for some time. The Sewerage & Water Board’s billing issues are legendary. The performance of the 911/311 call system has often been questionable. What about short-term rentals that advertise themselves at “two bedrooms sleep eight” instead of four as required by the permitting process?
Oyster dressing, or farci d’huîtres, served with turkey was already an established tradition in 19th century New Orleans. “Nothing is more elegant or recherché than an Oyster Dressing,” reads the original “Picayune Creole Cookbook,” published in 1901. “Oyster stuffings are favorite Creole dressings for turkeys.”
Our family’s Thanksgiving tables yield oyster dressings with only the slightest variations, the Creole-French-Spanish, the Creole-Irish-Italian and the Creole-French-German version. They all look and taste the same to me, except one. That one included beef.
Before and since the Americans purchased New Orleans from the French, New Orleans has remained unique and distinct, 215 years later, we still spurn convention. Thanksgiving is no exception. Where other states lead with carrot and parsnip soup, we lead with oysters: Oyster Soup, Oyster Patties and Oyster Dressing (you’ll find the recipes below in the Thanksgiving recipe section). Not just oysters, oysters seasoned in whole or in part with our “holy trinity” — bell pepper, onion, and celery. “The trinity,” the divine secret of New Orleans’ cuisine and even our Thanksgiving menu.