Thanksgiving brings many things to mind each year. In fact, it is my all time favorite holiday. I love the warmth of spending time with family and friends. Everyone offering their thanks for the blessings received during the past year, as well as offering thanks for the day and future days to come. It is a time when generations gather together to bond once more. Thanksgiving is a day when our family can come together without the pressures of gifts, enjoy delicious food, family, and football (please excuse the Cowboys this year… they had to play poorly in order to let the Rangers shine!)LOL! The game will still be on, although my husband is not allowed to touch the remote control - or any electronics for that matter… he gets a little too excited when they don’t make the right plays, which puts the remote in grave danger! Me, I could care less. How I became so passive in sports when everyone else in my family is so involved, I’ll never know.
My mind wanders… my mom’s cornbread dressing was kept a strictly guarded secret for years. Finally, several years ago when she was no longer able to handle Thanksgiving on her own, she decided to pass the recipe down to her own children. Today, I’m going to share it with you. I hope you decide to try it. If you’re not from the south it may be different from what you’re used to, but I promise, it is well worth trying. I’ll also include her recipe for turkey, although I’ve adapted this to fit my busy lifestyle. The dressing I can’t give up making because it’s become a tradition my daughter and I do together… that bonding moment you know.
Ah the debate… is it dressing or stuffing? Every Thanksgiving as I make dressing to go with our turkey, my daughter loves to debate that we shouldn’t call it dressing because the proper name is stuffing! It’s become a part of our tradition because in my southern family we’ve always made dressing. Some of her friends that originated from the northern states make stuffing; so of course, she had to adapt to what was popular with her friends. This mild debate goes on every year, yet it abated somewhat the year we “stuffed” the turkey with white bread stuffing instead of our traditional dressing. That totally changed her mind and her desire to fervently debate the difference between dressing and stuffing. Our definition of the difference between dressing and stuffing: dressing is baked separately from the turkey in its own pan, and then set out to “dress up” the turkey, while stuffing is baked inside the turkey and dug out of the bird before served.
Now everyone has their own idea of the perfect Thanksgiving accompaniments for their turkey, but in our home the dressing has always been more desired than all else, including the prized turkey. Not to be disrespectful to those who prefer stuffing, but we’ve been very disappointed when “subjected” to this northern bread stuffing. While this is fine for those folks that grew up with the white bread and sage variety, for us there is nothing to compare to my mom’s recipe for southern cornbread dressing. Moist, herb flavored, slightly sweet; this dressing is the perfect accompaniment to turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy. Other side dishes beware because they will be shunned in favor of the dressing, gravy, and turkey.
I hope you enjoy…
Mom’s Cornbread Dressing Recipe (not stuffing!)
Preheat oven to 400⁰
1 large skillet or pan of cornbread (cooked at least 1 day before making dressing)
8 slices of white bread (2 to 3 days old)
¾ c. diced celery
1 small or ½ large onion diced
1 small apple diced
2 eggs (uncooked)
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
½ tsp. pepper (or to taste)
5 tsp. sage (or to taste)
5 c. turkey broth or more until mixture is really moistened.
Crumble cornbread and tear white bread into small pieces. Place in large mixing bowl and combine with all other ingredients. Mix well, then pour into casserole dish and bake until top is brown and crunchy. Inside of dressing should still be very moist.
Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
12 to 14 lb. turkey
Salt or garlic salt
Remove the giblets and the neck from inside the turkey
Wash the turkey thoroughly inside and out
Liberally season the turkey inside and out with salt or garlic salt and pepper
Add a sprig or two of rosemary inside the turkey
Fill the roasting pan ½ full of water and carefully place prepared turkey in pan. Cover and bake at 350⁰ for 5 to 6 hours or until turkey is well-done. Check often and keep the water level in the pan at ½ full. Finally, to crisp and brown the skin remove the lid from the roasting pan, remove the turkey and place it on a foil covered baking sheet. Turn the oven temperature up to 400⁰ and continue baking until the skin is crisp and brown - 30 to 40 minutes. Retain the broth in the roasting pan to make the gravy.
Mom’s Turkey Gravy
5 heaping tbsp. flour
Cooled broth (about 1 cup)
Bring 4 to 5 cups turkey broth to a boil. Add finely chopped boiled eggs to boiling broth. Combine flour and cooled broth in a glass until all flour has dissolved. Slowly add this mixture to the boiling broth; stirring constantly. Bring gravy to a slow, bubbly medium boil and cook until thickened; stirring occasionally.
Remember, everything can be prepared the day before. You can make the dressing and refrigerate it overnight, then stick it in the oven to bake Thanksgiving morning. Cook the turkey the day before, then place it in the oven for the final browning 45 minutes or so before lunch. The gravy needs to be made right before dinner is served, but you can do what I do and let your sister make it! We try to make Thanksgiving a time to share together and not a day to spend away from our family just cooking and cleaning. Therefore, our tradition has evolved and everyone brings a dish to share, and we serve everything on fine "Chinette" with esquisite plastic ware. We then make sure to clean our plates completely before placing the "dishes" in the recycling bin. And there's always time later during or after the game to sample one or more pies! Have a relaxed and blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Blessings Always, Susan