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Eatymology: Oyster Dressing

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Eatymology: Oyster Dressing
Written by Emily Storrow | Photos by Fred + Elliott

Cornbread Oyster Dressing

[korn-bred ois-tər dre-sin]

n: A dish typically served in the coastal South during the holidays

Among all the iterations of dressing—using white bread, wheat bread, or cornbread; filled with sausage, mushrooms, oysters—a concoction distinctly of the coastal South emerges: cornbread oyster dressing. Wordsmiths would argue that stuffing is cooked inside the bird, while dressing is baked alongside or on its own; but south of the Mason-Dixon Line, dressing is the name of the game regardless of preparation. To put it simply, oyster dressing is traditionally found where oysters are; it’s eaten up and down the East Coast from New England to the Lowcountry and around the Gulf, but the dish is distinctly Southern when it includes cornbread. It likely found its home on the winter holiday table because the cooler weather meant the oysters were less susceptible to bacteria (cue the “R” month rule). Nowadays, thanks to refrigeration, it’s safe for us to enjoy them year-round, but the tradition of gobbling oyster dressing during the holidays has stuck. On the Virginia coast, Travis and Ryan Croxton are all about oysters. The cousins and co-owners of Rappahannock River Oyster Company are reinvigorating the Chesapeake Bay oyster trade and celebrating the bivalves at their restaurants. Two of their chefs, Dylan Fultineer of Rappahannock and Pete Woods of Merrior, have shared with us a recipe for cornbread oyster dressing worthy of a place at your Thanksgiving table.

Oyster Cornbread Dressing

This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.