Try mussels for an unusual turkey stuffing this holiday season

By , a staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Almost everyone agrees that oyster stuffing is one of the most delicious ways to stuff a Thanksgiving turkey, but with all the searching for culinary roots, it's amazing more people don't think of mussels.

Certainly the Pilgrims must have found large, juicy mussels just as plentiful as oysters. Today they're also easy to find, with cultivated mussels adding to the wild ones from the shores.

Mel Pell of Great Eastern Mussel Farms sent me this recipe, which he recommends highly as economical, easy to prepare, delicious, and bound to become a holiday tradition. Mel's Mussel Dressing 1 fresh 9-pound turkey 1 cup unsalted chicken broth 2 pounds fresh cultivated Maine mussels 1/4 cup vegetable oil 6 cups crumbled corn bread or fresh bread crumbs 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes Freshly ground pepper to taste

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Steam mussels in chicken broth about 4 minutes until shells open and mussels are plump. Cool and remove mussel meat from shells. Discard all but 12 shells.

Toss mussels in oil to help retain moisture and plumpness during roasting. Combine and mix all ingredients well.

Salt and pepper turkey cavity, then fill loosely. Do not overstuff, for dressing will expand during cooking.

If you have additional stuffing, fill the breast cavity and secure neck flap over opening. Use skewers and lace with cord to close cavities.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Scatter some sliced onions, carrots, and celery on bottom of roasting pan and set turkey on a rack over vegetables. Roast about 2 hours, basting every 20 minutes with the drippings.

If pan is dry after 30 minutes, add leftover broth from mussels or about 1/4 cup hot water.

Turkey should be done after 2 hours or until internal temperature of the breast registers 160 degrees F. and juices from a sharp knife inserted in the thigh are clear yellow.

Use mussel shells to decorate the turkey platter.

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