The holidays are quickly approaching. Thanksgiving is a few weeks away with Christmas right around the corner. These are the two largest cooking holidays on the calendar. In my family, everyone brings a couple of dishes. As large as my family is, the number of different dishes often number in the twenties.

The majority of the dishes are the sides. From Dirty Rice to Green Bean Casserole, the possibilities are endless. While there is always a new dish or two to try, a few dishes appear at every gathering. Today, I am sharing with you two recipes that are near and dear to my heart. A holiday gathering without either of these two dishes to me would be incomplete. Oyster Dressing and Dirty Rice are recipes that bring back memories of two very important ladies in my life, my mother Mona and my mother-in-law Lorraine. I cannot make these dishes without a happy thought coming to my mind and a smile being put on my face.

This recipe is a mainstay on New Orleans holiday tables. Oysters are a perfect fit to winter holiday menus. With their versatility, the sky is the limit in the ways oysters are used.

This recipe was a favorite of my mother-in-law. She used to make Oyster Dressing every Christmas. The only issue was that not many of the family ate the dish. As she got older, she stopped making it, with many other dishes to make. My second Christmas in the family, my wife asked me if I would make Oyster Dressing for her mother. Of course, I was more than happy to. Here is the recipe that I cooked that Christmas.

Oyster Dressing

2 teaspoons Butter
1 pint Oysters, reserving the liquor they come in
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 cups Onions, chopped
1 cup Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
2 Bay Leaves
1 tablespoon Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, minced
1 cup Seafood Stock
1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped
4 cups French Bread cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish with the butter. Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor. In a large skillet oven medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and Creole seasoning and sauté for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the bay leaves, garlic and parsley, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the green onions, oyster liquor and the bread cubes. Stir to mix well and remove from the heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread mixture with the oysters and cheese. Stir to mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until bubbly and golden brown. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

This recipe is a family favorite. I make it for every holiday get together. A few years ago, my brother Ken presented me with the skillet that my mother used to make Dirty Rice among many other recipes. To this day, I will not make this dish in anything other than my mother’s skillet. For some reason, it taste better.

Dirty Rice

1 pound Ground Chuck
6 cups Cooked Rice
1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
2 cups Chicken Stock

Brown ground chuck over medium heat. Drain the fat. Add the green onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add the rice and mix well. Add the creole seasoning and mix well. Add stock and cook until it is all absorbed. Taste and adjust the seasonings before serving.

These traditional side dishes are perfect on any menu, not just for holidays. Next week, I will offer some ideas to end a Thanksgiving meal, Desserts.