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Heritage Turkey with Oyster Stuffing

The Heritage Turkey is a bird that has been bread to be true to one of the older registered turkey varieties - it must be able to breed naturally, live seven to nine years, and grow slowly.
Slow Food, USA offers a state-by-state listing of farmers who are breeding and selling genuine Heritage Turkeys. I buy mine locally from Springfield Farm in northern Baltimore County.

Serves 10 to 12

1 Heritage Turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Oyster Dressing (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Wash the cavity of the turkey with cold water and dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper and stuff loosely with the dressing. If there is any extra dressing, bake it separately in a buttered pan during the last hour the turkey is roasting. Truss the turkey. Rub the skin with butter. Place the turkey on a rack, breast side down, in a roasting pan.

Roast 25 minutes per pound. Turn the turkey after 2 hours. When done, remove the turkey from the oven and let stand, loosely covering with aluminum foil, for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

Oyster Dressing

Chesapeake locals take great pride in this regional stuffing, and with good reason: It is a unique eating experience. The flavor of the Chesapeake oysters imparts a subtle seafood tang to the dressing, complementing the succulent meat of a fine Heritage Turkey.

Makes 10 cups

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
7 cups day-old bread cubes
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1 pint shucked oysters, drained, liquor reserved, and chopped
1 cup milk, as needed

Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté: the onion and celery until soft. Combine the onion, celery, bread cubes, salt, pepper, mace and chopped oysters in a bowl. Mix well. Pour in the oyster liquor, then slowly add enough milk to moisten stuffing. Do not make it too wet.

Adapted from Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields
Broadway Books ©1998

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