The Oyster: Nature’s little gift born and nurtured from the confluence of weather, water, sediment, and time. Each one of these influences standalone on their own their force unstoppable. But together, they mean much more: They become nature’s family tree, each one a root growing into a branch, working together, to create one of nature’s tastier offspring.
The Virginia Oyster’s place at the Thanksgiving table is steeped in history. In 1607, Sir Christopher Newport, Captain John Smith, and his company of 150 men learned the value of these oysters from the native confederacy of Powhatan tribes. They encountered plentiful oyster beds in the bay, along the Lynnhaven, James, and Rappahannock Rivers. Served at the inaugural Thanksgiving feast, oysters have been a significant symbol of this American tradition ever since.
Oysters on the half shell, oyster stew, oyster stuffing, roasted and fried - nothing says Virginia Thanksgiving like serving oysters from the Bay! (Signature recipe below)
Rockafellers’ Signature Oyster Stuffing by Executive Chef, Joy Summers
Heat oven to 250. Arrange bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, stirring occasionally, until dried but not browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
Put bacon into a large skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until crisp and its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. Add 4 tbsp. of the butter and heat. Add shallots and celery, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and translucent. Add oyster liquor, stock, sherry, parsley, thyme, sage, hot sauce, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the bread cubes and oysters. Set aside to allow the flavors to come together for 10 minutes.
Raise the oven temperature to 400. Transfer mixture to a greased baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, drizzle with remaining butter, and continue baking until golden brown and crusty, about 15 minutes more. Serve!
Written by Ben Stone, Rockafellers Restaurant, Virginia Beach
Visit the Virginia Oyster Trail Calendar of Events regularly for listings of upcoming activities and events.