Oyster, Bacon and Spinach Dressing

I make some version of a dressing each year.  Some years it has been outstanding, but I forgot to write it down and attempts to recreate never did justice to our memories of the occasional great year.  I would rate this year’s dressing among my best.  But it should be noted that, even thought I am writing this in recipe form, it in fact resides in my head as more of a formula: a certain proportion of bread + savouries like bacon or sausage + herbs and aromatics + eggs to set + stock for moisture.  Feel free to make substitutions at will.  My sister is happy with cornbread and apples.  I really liked this year’s version with bacon, spinach and oysters.  Any bread will work, but you’ll get better results if you are thoughtful about what you are going for.  I am going to hear from my mother that this should have been made with plain French baguette, but I chose a crusty wholemeal sourdough for it’s flavor and structure.  I wanted crust to stand up to the sogginess of the oysters and I thought the sour notes in the bread would help keep this from being too rich.  

Ingredients

Loaf of wholemeal sourdough bread (approx 450g/1lb), cubed and left out for a couple of days or dried in the oven
450g/1lb of spinach (not baby spinach) cleaned, blanched or wilted, drained and chopped
150g bacon (streaky for those of you who aren’t American)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 dozen oysters and their liquor
approximately 1 cup of turkey stock
large handful of finely chopped herbs — I used celery leaves, parsley, chervil, and tarragon

Method

Blanch or wilt spinach until just cooked.  Drain and set aside.

Chop bacon into 1cm pieces.  Fry bacon until soft and beginning to color but not yet crisp.  Remove to paper towel
Pour off excess grease, or add butter if there isn’t enough.
Saute onions in bacon grease/buter until soft.
Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
[If using thyme or rosemary or other sturdier herbs, add now to bring out their flavour]
Squeeze any additional liquid from the spinach.  Chop and add to pan.  Cook for another minute or two to coat and warm spinach.
Remove to a bowl.

Deglaze pan with water, stock or white wine (add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan about 1-2mm deep, scrape tasty bits from the bottom as it boils).
Add equal parts oyster liquor and turkey stock.  Simmer for a couple of minutes.  This will mellow out the oyster liquor.
Taste and further reduce if the flavor is bland.  Season, but be careful of salt as the bacon and the oysters can be salty.  Set broth aside.

Add butter to pan and fry bread cubes for a minute or two.
Add spinach and mix well.
Remove to a bowl and allow to cool slightly.
Add oysters and bacon and gently fold in.
Scramble two eggs and fold into bread/spinach mixture.

Add broth til wet, but not sloppy.
Put in baking dish.  Adjust liquid if necessary.  [Can hold here for a while.]

When ready, bake 30-45 minutes (depending whether it was allowed to cool or not) until the liquid is coked away, the eggs are set and the top is crusty.
Serve hot or warm.