Pilgrims didn't eat jellied cranberry sauce or green bean casserole, but their first Thanksgiving dinner almost certainly included shellfish. While the immigrants weren't especially fond of the clams and enormous lobsters within easy reach of their settlement - they referred to shellfish "the last of God's blessings" - sea creatures were mainstays of their feast tables.
The Pilgrims didn't have access to oysters, but the bivalves were considered an integral Thanksgiving food by the time Abraham Lincoln codified the holiday in 1863. "Oysters seem to be a part of the Thanksgiving dinner," Sarah Tyson Rorer advised in 1905's Mrs. Rorer's Every Day Menu Book, which recommended serving oyster dressing; oyster sauce or scalloped oysters to mark the holiday.
John Adams of Skookum Point Pacific Oysters prefers his Thanksgiving oysters stuffed in mushrooms. He and his wife Amy use the caps as an appetizer, although diners wouldn't likely object if they showed up as a side dish.
Adams is a third-generation clam and oyster farmer. ("The fourth generation regards the clams and oysters as pets and isn't too much into farming yet," he says of his young kids.) His farm, situated at the mouth of the Little Skookum, is home to more than 1 million Olympia oysters, of which 250 dozen are harvested for sale at farmers markets. The Adamses also grow Pacifics and Kumamatos: He calls this year the farm's best yet for specialty oysters.
The Adamses -- who handle farm operations without the assistance of any employees -- reseed their oyster beds every year.
"This allows our crop to be a huge spawning population every summer which contributes billions of larvae to the south Puget Sound ecosystem," he says. "Not to mention the deep level of satisfaction that I get from walking through my oyster beds and seeing a huge thriving population of native oysters."
12 medium Crimini or White mushrooms
¼ c. butter
1 Tbs. chopped Italian parsley
1 ½ tsp. minced garlic
½ cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 c. white wine
½ tsp. lime juice
5-8 shakes crushed red pepper flakes
6 extra small oysters (can use up to 9 for a stronger flavor)
¼ cup finely chopped cooked bacon
¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola
2-3 Tbs. breadcrumbs
Shredded parmesan for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Wash and pat dry mushrooms, carefully remove and save stems. Use a small measuring spoon to hollow out a larger space in each mushroom and add to the stems, chop. Place each whole mushroom on a baking sheet.
Shuck oysters, reserving liquid. Run liquor through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl to remove all small shell bits and save. Carefully rinse oysters to remove shell bits. Set aside oysters and oyster liquor.
Lightly saute butter, shallots, parsley, garlic and chopped mushrooms, for a few minutes until mushrooms are soft. Add wine, whole shucked oysters and reserved liquor. Continue to cook for a minute or two until oysters plump and turn opaque. Carefully remove the hot whole oysters and chop them on a small cutting board. Add them back into the sauté.
Remove from heat and add lime juice, red pepper flakes, cooked chopped bacon and gorgonzola. Lightly stir until cheese crumbles melt. Add breadcrumbs. Spoon into mushrooms, sprinkle tops with shredded parmesan, and cook in preheated 375 oven for 10-15 minutes.
Serve hot. Leftover filling can be saved and served with crackers as an hors d'oeuvre.