Last updated on September 9, 2023 by Liza Hawkins
One of the things I’ve always loved about cooking is the ability to try a recipe and then change it up to make it my own. But, sometimes a recipe is so perfect just the way it started that altering it would seem almost offensive. Like the recipe for this simple oyster casserole.
A friend shared this oyster casserole recipe with me back in 2001.
It’s hard to remember exactly, but I believe at the time I was looking for something to make for a holiday dinner at my future in-laws’ house, so she pulled out a few of her trusted favorite recipes and was kind enough to share them with me.
The simplicity of this one was astonishing — I remember thinking, “How in the world can only a few ingredients make something so tasty?!”
Well, probably because of the fat. It’s not for the faint of heart when it comes to calories, as you shall see! So, maybe that helps.
For a holiday dinner nobody cares about that, right? Right.
Simple Oyster Casserole
There’s no substitute for the jarred fresh oysters in this casserole, which is something I’m asked by a reader during every holiday season (whether they mean smoked oysters or another shellfish, I’m not sure). All I can say is, try the recipe before you turn your nose.
There are recipes that are so beautifully simple and satisfying that tampering with them would almost feel like culinary sacrilege. This simple oyster casserole is one of those gems; a timeless classic that has graced holiday tables for generations.
Its humble combination of ingredients makes it a cherished favorite, and once you’ve tasted it, you’ll understand why it’s deserving of a permanent place in your holiday repertoire like sweet potato casserole and other classics.
In this casserole, the oysters bake into a taste and texture that’s unlike a fried oyster or something from a raw bar. It’s the magic of the cream and the butter, along with the saltiness of the oyster liqueur and the crackers … yum!
At the heart of this oyster casserole is, of course, the star ingredient: plump, briny oysters. They bring a taste of the ocean to your holiday feast, something this native Marylander appreciates. When it comes to oysters, freshness is paramount, and this dish allows those oysters to shine in all their natural glory.
The creamy, velvety sauce that envelops the oysters is rich without being overpowering, allowing the delicate taste of the oysters to come through. The combination of butter, cream, and a touch of brine creates a luscious, comforting backdrop for the oysters to nestle into. It’s a sauce that marries the land and the sea in perfect harmony.
Now, let’s talk about the finishing touch: the crunchy, golden breadcrumb topping. It adds a delightful contrast to the creamy oysters, and it’s a bit like discovering a hidden treasure within the casserole … a satisfying crunch that leads to the tender, succulent oysters below.
As you take that first forkful, the flavors of the oysters and the creamy sauce meld together in a way that’s nothing short of magical. It’s a taste that transports you to the coast, where the sea breeze mingles with the aroma of a holiday feast. Every bite is a reminder of the joy that comes from simple, well-executed dishes that require no alteration or embellishment.
Beyond Oyster Casserole: Exploring the World of Oysters
Oysters, those briny jewels of the sea, have held an esteemed place in culinary history for centuries. Whether you’re a seasoned oyster enthusiast or a curious novice, the journey of selecting, sourcing, and savoring these delectable mollusks is one worth embarking upon. We’ll quickly delve into the art of choosing the perfect oysters, discover where to procure them, and explore the myriad of culinary adventures that await within the confines of a jar.
Selecting the Perfect Oysters:
The first step in creating an unforgettable oyster experience is selecting the right bivalves. When it comes to choosing fresh oysters, it’s all about the senses. Start with your nose; the oysters should have a clean, briny sea smell, like a refreshing breeze on a coastal morning. If intact, their shells should be tightly closed or have a slight gap that closes when tapped — a sure sign of freshness.
When it comes to jarred oysters, the rules of selection still apply. Look for jars that are free of any damage or signs of leakage. Check the label for key information, such as the harvest date, processing method, and any additives. Ideally, opt for jarred oysters that are minimally processed, retaining their natural flavor and texture.
Where to Find Your Oysters:
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of what to look for, it’s time to embark on a quest to find your oysters. The best place to start is your local seafood market or fishmonger. Establishing a rapport with a trusted vendor can help ensure you consistently get the finest oysters available. Many seafood markets even offer a variety of oyster options, from briny East Coast gems to plump and creamy West Coast delights.
If you’re a fan of the convenience of jarred oysters, you’re in luck! These treasures from the deep can often be found in the meat/seafood counter of your favorite grocery store. If possible, choose an option that shows good quality and sustainability practices. That said, may grocery stores typically only have a single jarred option, so you get what you get. Alternatively, you can explore online sources and specialty food stores that offer a wider range of jarred oyster options, including smoked, pickled, and spiced varieties.
Unleashing the Culinary Potential:
Beyond the classic oyster on the half shell, jarred oysters open the door to a world of culinary creativity. These ready-to-use morsels can elevate your dishes with their rich, briny essence. Consider adding them to your next seafood chowder for a burst of flavor, or toss them into a pasta sauce for a decadent twist on linguine and clams.
Jarred oysters also shine in appetizers and snacks. Create a delightful oyster dip by blending them with cream cheese, horseradish, and a hint of lemon juice. This crowd-pleasing dip, when spread on toasted baguette slices, will have your guests clamoring (oystering?) for the recipe.
Or, craft a savory oyster stuffing for a show-stopping Thanksgiving side dish that will have everyone at the table singing your praises — this was a staple at my New England grandmother’s feast.
This holiday season, as you gather around the table with loved ones, consider adding this simple oyster casserole to your menu. Let its unadorned elegance be a testament to the beauty of a recipe that’s perfect just the way it is. And as you savor each bite, take a moment to appreciate the culinary tradition that has brought this dish to your table, a tradition that celebrates the art of keeping things beautifully, deliciously simple.
This simple oyster casserole is perfect for the holidays!
- 2 pints fresh jarred oysters (find them in the seafood section)
- 4 cups medium coarse saltine cracker crumbs - about 2 sleeves
- 1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
- 1-1/2 cups half & half
- 1/2 cup oyster liqueur (the liquid in the oyster jars)
- 1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drain the oysters, reserving the 1/2 cup of oyster liqueur.
- In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs and butter. Spread 1/3 of the cracker mixture into the bottom of a 9x13" casserole dish, and then top with 1/2 of oysters. Sprinkle with pepper. Repeat these steps once more.
- Combine the half & half, oyster liqueur, worcestershire sauce and salt. Pour the liquid mixture over top of the layers in the casserole dish. Top with the remaining crackers.
- Bake for 55 to 60 minutes uncovered, or until the top is golden and edges are bubbly.
Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
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- Qimh Collapsible Colander Set of 3 Round Silicone Kitchen Strainer Set - 2 pcs 4 Quart and 1 pcs 2 Quart- Perfect for Draining Pasta, Vegetable and fruit (green,blue, purple)
- Pyrex Prepware 2-Cup Measuring Cup, Red Graphics, Clear
- Pyrex Deep Baking Dish Set (6-Piece, BPA-Free Lids)
- Calphalon Contemporary Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Cookware, Pour and Strain Sauce Pan, 3 1/2-quart, Black
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 623Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 210mgSodium: 1028mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 29g