November 14, 2012

The Dressing

Okay..let's talk about dressing. No..I don't mean Hidden Valley. NO! I don't mean putting on clothes. I'm talking about the all important Thanksgiving side dish that is basically the hinge that holds the meal together. Am I right? I mean who among us could HAVE Thanksgiving dinner without dressing?

I understand certain parts of the country call it stuffing. I don't. Stuffing means you've STUFFED something, somewhere and that is NOT dressing. Dressing is that scrumptious, velvety, warm and comforting stuff that DRESSES the sides of the turkey. Okay so now that we've established that...let's move on to the certain kinds of dressing. I know this is much like politics. The way dressing is prepared is of utmost importance to each family/cook/non-cooking but participating member of the meal. It incites a range of emotions when discussed. I will never forget the first year that I was not home for Thanksgiving and I was spending that day with beloved friends. They are southern, they'd grown up in the South, much like me, they understood all things country and as familiar and related as we all were, it never crossed my mind that the dressing would not taste just like Jackie Tuckers.(Lil grandma) Well..folks...I was rudely awakened upon arrival at the Thanksgiving feast to find that we were having LIVER DRESSING. L I V E R! I believe I snuck to the bathroom to call my mom, crying.  Anyhoo...we ate it, I ate it, it was really was..but it wasn't MY DRESSING, my Grandma's dressing, my mama's dressing. I vowed then to never live through another Thanksgiving meal without my dressing, even if I had to bring it in tote.

So over the years, I've made my own Thanksgiving meals...always with a pan of Grandma's dressing; not a Pyrex 9x13 glass dish. I'm talking a PAN. A large turkey roasting pan. Our family makes this size because the last Thursday of the month we will consume most of that pan, every day there after we will eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner until it's gone and then we grieve and tell ourselves every single year, "we can make a little pan of this throughout the year! Why do we only make it this one time?" And we never do. I think it's just supposed to be that way. I've had similar dressings in my life. I've had some that could rival Grandma's but never have I tasted any that was as good or made me feel like we were channeling her as we prepared it and ate it, as hers. I think too, this is meant to be. I'm going to share the precious recipe with you and I encourage you, if you don't yet HAVE a tradition of dressing, make it this one! You will NOT regret it. aware...this recipe will NOT work unless you put a whole lot of love in it. That's the secret here.

 Grandma's Cornbread Dressing
1 recipe of cornbread- (you can use any homemade cornbread recipe just don't add a bunch of sugar if you are used to making a sweet cornbread..don't want that here)
1 large onion, chopped
one small bunch of celery, chopped(use ends and leaves for stock, at another date)
1 can of cream of celery soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
6 eggs
Turkey stock(may use chicken stock but homemade, rich stock is going to be the difference)
4-5 slices of toasted white bread
salt, pepper and TINY amount of ground sage(USE sparingly, can ruin the whole taste if you get too much)

Prepare cornbread (I usually do this the night before).  Chop onions and celery, cover in sauce pan of water and cook on low 1 hour or until very soft, drain and put in the container and store in refrigerator(do this the night before as well).  In large roaster, crumbled corn bread, add celery and onions and mix well. Throw in a dash of giant grandma hugs. Combine soups with cornbread mixture, stir until mixed well. Add enough stock so that mixture is fluid but not watery in any way. Consistency of creamy oatmeal. Add pieces of toast, salt, pepper, and sage (tiny shakes at a time)mix well **sage tends to lend a bitter taste so do NOT over season.  Add more turkey stock until it's a thick but creamy consistency. Bake uncovered at 350° for about 30 minutes or until dressing is browned on top and cake like in the middle. **The turkey stock that you've just drained from your golden yummy turkey is the BEST stock to use. It's rich with buttery goodness(if you buttered your tom before cooking) and seasoned perfectly. BUT..I've made it before with canned chicken stock and added butter to it with my own seasoning. It's still GREAT!

Love, L

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