Many of the very things that I cook during the holiday season are the old, traditional dishes of my childhood: such Creole classics as turtle soup laced with sherry, oyster dressing, a standing roast of our Charolais beef, and, of course, Mom's many wonderful cookies, dried fruit and rum cake, pecan sweet potatoes, and black-bottom pie. Those long gatherings of yesteryear shape my menus today in a way that no culinary school could do. In this way, the holidays connect us to our South Louisiana roots. Every year, I do versions of these favorite Creole foods, and every year I search for ways to be innovative without losing the very soul of the dish. It's one of the things I love the most about cooking here: not just that food matters so much but that it matters the most to locals, who have always held chefs and cuisine in high esteem.
Tips: Prepare this dish a day or so ahead, but don't bake it until just moments before serving. After you've combined the ingredients, evaluate the consistency. If the French bread seems too dry, add a cup or two of chicken stock.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-by-14 inch or other similar size shallow baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.
- Cook the bacon in a large skillet over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 7 tablespoons butter and let it melt, then add the celery, bell peppers, onions, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes.
- Put the baguette cubes into a large bowl. Spoon the bacon and vegetable mixture on top. Add the oysters and their liquor, along with the green onions and parsley.
- Beat the eggs with the hot sauce and salt in a small bowl. Pour the eggs into the bowl with the bread cubes and gently stir until the dressing is well combined. Spoon the dressing into the prepared baking dish and bake in the upper third of the over until heated through and crisp on top, about 45 minutes. Serve hot.