It’s been weeks since you roasted a turkey, so get ready to roast another one. It may seem soon, but, after all, you won’t have to roast another one for 11 months. Remember that while the turkey is the centerpiece of the meal, the real stars are the sides. How often do you get to eat gravy. Really? That often! For me the real star of a turkey dinner is the dressing, which a superior form of stuffing.
Some people stuff a turkey with … stuffing. Folks in the South usually prefer to leave the turkey unstuffed while roasting it, except perhaps for a whole peeled onion or a lemon cut in half or some bacon (which goes with everything). The turkey cooks more evenly that way. More important, the cavity of the turkey limits the amount of stuffing you can have. The answer is “stuffing” cooked separately in a large shallow pyrex pan: dressing. My mother, Dear, made the best stuffing I’ve ever had. You may think that your mother did, and that’s as it should be, but you’re wrong. Dear made the best, and now you can, too. It’s easy. Here’s Dear’s recipe:
One package of cornbread mix, prepared as directed.
One cup white bread, chopped, or more.
Equal amounts of onion and celery, chopped
Celery seeds, sage, salt, and pepper
Two eggs, beaten
Two or more tablespoons of butter.
Enough chicken stock to make the mixture rather damp.
Bake at 400 degrees for about one hour. The top will be browned.
Now, you may consider the directions to be somewhat vague. Dear never actually followed directions when cooking, so all of her recipes are pretty vague to the uninitiated. That created an occasional problem. A girl I was dating once asked Dear for the recipe for a casserole that included, among other ingredients, two 5 ounce cans of mild green chili peppers. Dear gave her a recipe calling for two cans of jalapeño peppers, and jalapeños then came in 15 ounce cans. And Dear really liked the girl!
To flesh the dressing recipe out, you want at least a cup each of onion and celery. Use your own judgment. And use your own judgment as to the celery salt, sage, salt, and pepper. Like Dear, I look at recipes as lists of ingredients. I never measure herbs and spices, beyond always doubling the garlic, so I can’t be much help. You do want a good bit of sage, though.
Mix all the ingredients except for the chicken stock in a large bowl, and then put the mixture in the casserole dish, the inside of which you have coated with the butter. Add the chicken stock — enough to make to the mixture … rather damp. It will dry out some in the oven. You might check it during cooking to make sure it isn’t getting too dry.
After you’ve finished cooking it, let it cool just a bit and then divide it into squares with a spatula, much as you would a sheet cake or lasagna. Each piece should be rather, for lack of a better word, firm and moist, but not so moist that it won’t happily soak up some gravy; it should not crumble… much. If it does, sprinkle with hot stock or make some more gravy. Serve the dressing on the side of the plate that includes turkey, mashed potatoes, and everything else on which you plan to ladle gravy. Of course, that may be the whole plate.
Dressing is really good the next day, if any is left over. Dear sometimes made two batches, and you really should make too much so you have some leftovers. You can enjoy it cold, or reheat it covered in the oven and add gravy. Each bite will make you thankful.
And don’t forget to make some bourbon sweet potatoes!
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