|Ruth's Chris Steak House famous oyster dressing.|
Thanksgiving is a time to share a feast with family and reflect on the dreams that our forefathers had for this country. Ruth's Chris Steak House founder Ruth Fertel found her American Dream and shares her oyster dressing recipe, served to her family and restaurant patrons each Thanksgiving.
In 1965, Ruth Fertel was a single mother with two sons and she mortgaged her house to purchase Chris Steak House at the corner of Broad and Ursuline in New Orleans in 1965. With virtually no experience, Ruth found herself butchering the meat by herself in the kitchen, keeping the books, and serving guests. She even developed the broiler – still used today – the steak house uses to create the sizzle for which it’s so widely known.
After a kitchen fire destroyed the steakhouse in 1976, Ruth purchased a new property a few blocks away on Broad Street and opened under the name Ruth’s Chris Steak House; her contract with the first owner precluded her from using the name Chris Steak House in a different location, and she didn’t want to lose her loyal following. The first franchise opened in March 1976 and over the years, Ruth added more franchises.
As part of her celebrations for Thanksgiving and all family holidays, Ruth served her original oyster dressing, offering her hometown New Orleans twist to an American classic. The dressing includes Crescent City ingredients including oysters, smoked sausage and New Orleans-style hot sausage. Continuing the legacy of Ruth Fertel and her humble beginnings, Nancy Oswald, owner of the highest-grossing Ruth’s Chris Steak House franchise in the world with nine restaurants in the Southeast, including four in the Atlanta area, still serves Ruth’s oyster dressing at every holiday gathering.
Serving dishes such as her favorite oyster dressing to close friends and family, Ruth lived up to her famous words to “do what you love – love what you do.”
Ruth’s Oyster Dressing
Serves: about 12 four-ounce servings
8 ounces smoked sausage, finely diced
8 ounces hot sausage (see recipe below)
2 medium onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
¼ cup fresh garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces
8 cups oysters, cleaned and drained, save the liquid
4 cubes chicken bullion
8 cups (1 to 1 ½ loaves) French bread, dried and cut into half-inch cubes
6 large eggs
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
1. In a skillet, sauté smoked sausage and hot sausage. Add onion, celery, green pepper and garlic and cook on medium heat until vegetables are soft. Add parsley and remove from heat.
2. In another skillet, sauté oysters in 2 tablespoons of butter until the edges curl. Using a slotted spoon, remove oysters from skillet and set aside to cool. Add remaining oyster liquid and bouillon cubes to skillet, dissolving bouillon cubes and bringing the mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat and add remaining 14 tablespoons of butter.
3. Chop cooled oysters and add to the onion, celery, green pepper and garlic mixture.
4. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir into the vegetables and oyster mixture. Add bread and oyster liquid with butter and bouillon and mix well. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper.
5. Pour mixture in a buttered baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
In New Orleans, hot sausage is a fresh pork sausage seasoned with red pepper and paprika and is stuffed in pork casings, similar to Italian sausage without the fennel seeds. If hot sausage is unavailable, use this substitute:
8 ounces boneless pork shoulder, cut into one-inch cubes
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1. Put the pork shoulder cubes in a bowl and add in cayenne pepper, paprika salt and black pepper. Let mixture stand for 2 hours then grind or chop it to a fine texture. Refrigerate until ready to use.