Cornbread and oysters are a classic combination for Thanksgiving stuffing. In this recipe from Charlie Palmer, the chef uses fresh-shucked oysters, celery root, and slightly dried-out cornbread to create a stuffing with a perfectly moistened, not mushy, texture. Don’t be tempted to cut corners with already-shucked oysters—they must be fresh from the shell. If your shucking skills are more beginner than pro, check out our tutorial or have your fishmonger open them for you, and be sure to reserve their liquid (a.k.a. liquor). Choose oysters that are heavy for their size and smell as fresh and bracing as the sea. A good oyster knife has a broad, thin, but rigid blade—it has to be strong enough to pop the shell apart without snapping or bending. To save time, make our Moist Cornbread well ahead of time and freeze it, or buy a pan of good-quality cornbread from a bakery or quality market. Note that the cornbread needs to dry in the oven overnight, so give yourself time.
Safety note: The heat and time required to safely cook stuffing packed into a good-size turkey usually results in a breast with the texture of sawdust. The stuffing should be cooked to 160°F, the same internal temperature as the turkey, so you’d think it would work out perfectly. But when the bird is at 160°F and ready to serve, the stuffing (insulated against the oven heat by the bird) is still undercooked and needs at least another 90 minutes in the oven. Which is why preparing your stuffing separately, shown here, is ideal.