Not Quite a Recipe: Cornbread and Biscuit Dressing

Photo from lanascooking.com
Photo from lanascooking.com

I wanted this to be a recipe but realized I don’t have any quantities, so this is more a description of a recipe, or a memory.  My mother made the best cornbread dressing ever.  She did not believe in stuffing a turkey or chicken, feeling that the stuffing took much longer to cook and that it was unlikely to get done and be safe to eat.  I know a lot of people are fond of stuffing, but not my family!  So the way we always had it was baked separately in a pan, after the turkey was done and was resting.

Here’s what I recall went in it:

1 skillet cornbread (homemade), crumbled

1 pan biscuits (either homemade or canned), crumbled

1 or 2 onions

celery

boiled eggs, chopped, I think about 4

salt

pepper

poultry seasoning

sage (just a little, she did not like too strong a sage flavor)

some juice from the cooked bird to stick it all together and make it soft

maybe a little bacon grease or melted butter to give flavor (margarine, in those days)

All this was mixed up in a huge bowl.  Then she spread it on a baking sheet with sides or another roasting pan, and baked it in the oven, I think at 350 degrees, until browned. 

Mother also made gravy to pour over it, from the pan drippings, the giblets and neck (which she sauteed and chopped), more onion, celery, butter, salt and pepper.

I was always pleased when we had chicken and dressing, and the dressing was my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  We always ate it until we felt sick the next day, because Mother insisted on throwing out the leftover dressing after Friday.  She thought it wasn’t safe to keep because of the eggs.

So I’m remembering my mother, and wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m grateful for my family, my friends, my cat and all my other blessings.

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Dressing: Smooth vs. Chunky

Major ingredient in dressing
Dressing, served with turkey or chicken, is an emotional subject in the South.  I have known people who wanted it to have the consistency of mush and won’t eat it if they can perceive the presence of celery or onions in the texture.

My family is a chunky dressing family.  I don’t have Mother’s recipe because she didn’t use one, but I do remember how she made the dressing for Thanksgiving dinner and how tasty it was.

Step one was to make a pan of cornbread, and step two to make a pan of biscuits.  She boiled a couple of eggs, chopped celery and onions, and crumbled the cornbread and biscuits together in a huge bowl.  Then she added the eggs, celery, and onions to the bread mixture, following with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, and just enough broth to make it all stick together.  She tasted it to make sure the seasonings were at the right level.  Then she spread it in a large pan and baked it in the oven until it was warm through and browned.

While the dressing was browning Mother made giblet gravy.  She had boiled the turkey neck and giblets to make the base for the gravy.  Then she chopped the giblets, adding them back to the broth with what little meat came off the turkey neck.  The gravy also had chopped boiled eggs, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, and sometimes a little flour to thicken it if I’m remembering right.

For me the turkey was definitely an afterthought.  At Thanksgiving dinner I’d fill my plate with dressing smothered in gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, fresh cranberry relish, and a small slice of turkey.  Yum!  It’s all about the sides.  The dressing was even more of a treat because Mother was convinced it would go bad quickly, so we only got to have leftovers of it the next day.

Occasionally Mother would make a smaller batch of dressing to go with a roasted chicken.  It was a lot of trouble because of the initial baking involved before construction of the dressing began, but it sure was good!