It’s no secret, we are foodies down here in Virginia’s River Realm. We are proud to boast a long list of incredible chefs, creative restaurants, and oyster farmers who serve up dishes featuring fresh, local seafood and inspired by foodie traditions from all over the world. We have a few favorites that are simple enough to take home. Get to know the people behind the recipes and start preheating your oven…
Oyster Cornbread Dressing
Local Food Guru Pete Woods is a River Realm culinary anchor. He’s got a recipe for you, originally featured on the Local Palate. If you’re all about the stuffing (some people call it dressing) then you must try incorporating oysters into your recipe. He bases this on his mother’s own recipe, using Thanksgiving leftovers. The oyster is easy to incorporate into sweet or savory dressing recipes.
For the cornbread:
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
For the dressing:
1 pint oysters, chopped and in their liquor
1 pan of cornbread
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
½ cup unsalted butter
3 slices uncooked bacon, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1½ cups chicken stock
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
6 fresh sage leaves, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Make the cornbread: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, melt butter, remove from heat, and stir in sugar. Add eggs and beat until blended. In a bowl, combine buttermilk with baking soda then pour into skillet, combining with egg mixture. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt. Pour batter into a greased 8-inch pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, then cut the cornbread into 1-inch cubes. Place on a lined baking sheet and toast in a 300 degree oven until almost golden and dry to the touch.
- Make the dressing: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine chopped oysters and their liquor, cornbread, and parmesan. Mix well and let rest. In a heavy pot, melt butter over medium to medium-high heat. When butter is melted, add bacon and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Add celery, onions, and chicken stock and reduce to a simmer, cooking for 10 minutes until celery and onion are soft. Add minced herbs, coriander, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Combine oyster and cornbread mixture with vegetables. Transfer mixture into a buttered dish and bake until top is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Bryan Byrd of Byrd’s Seafood Company grew up in Virginia’s River Realm. He has been working in the restaurant industry for 15 years. Five were spent in Key West. “Now, I give people a taste of what I grew up, but with a Caribbean spin,” he says. Here’s his savory oyster stew recipe. Learn where to get your oysters here.
2 cups sweet vidalia onions, chopped
½ pound freshly sliced Red Eye country ham, chopped
2 sticks butter
1 quart fresh wild caught Rappahannock River oysters, shucked
½ gallon half and half
2 cups freshly cooked collard greens (or 1 16-ounce can pre-cooked)
Sauté the onions and ham in olive oil until the onions are translucent, then set aside. Melt butter slowly in a large dutch oven or saucepan. Add the oysters and cook until the edges start to curl. As the oysters are cooking, slowly add the half and half, stirring lightly. Add the collard greens, ham and onions. Add sea salt and cracked pepper to taste.
Easy Baked Oyster Casserole
W. Ellery Kellum started Kellum Seafood in 1948. Today, Tommy Kellum and his brothers produce nearly 600,000 bushels of oysters a year. He and his family have passed down oyster recipes from generation to generation. This oyster casserole is easy enough for anyone to make, you can even invite the kids to help! Discover more Kellum Seafood recipes here.
2 qt. Kellum Oysters, well drained
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup onions
Salt and pepper
Juice of one lemon
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ cup melted butter
2 cups medium coarse cracker crumbs
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup oyster juice
Grease pan with butter. Layer mixed crumbs on bottom. Layer of oysters. Sprinkle parsley, onions and seasonings. Pour cream and oyster juice over top. Cook. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Share Your Recipes!
Did you tackle one of these recipes? We’d love to see your photos, whether it was a failure or not. Tag us on Instagram and Facebook using @virginiasriverrealm. We would love to see how you brought the River Realm to your home.