Boy, can you get people up in arms with a discussion of whether or not you should serve stuffing or dressing for Thanksgiving dinner?
For the 30 years that I've cooked Thanksgiving dinner, and on the tables of all of my extended and very southern family, the choice has been dressing. This recipe is the one that I use without alteration. I have tweaked it until I have what is, for us, the perfect dressing. It is simple and easy, with pleasantly mild seasoning. I prefer a dressing that doesn't taste like you're eating a sage bush and is consistent in texture... a smooth, almost pudding like texture.
Baked in a pan or casserole, dressing is a perfect accompaniment to the traditional turkey and gravy.
Leftover dressing is so essential at this house that in the last few years, I've had to make several pans of the dressing to accommodate.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving I start the process. As the weather has turned cool, soup and corn bread are often the order of the day. Leftover cornbread is stashed in a gallon ziploc bag in the freezer in happy anticipation of Thanksgiving dressing. The two leftover biscuits from breakfast gets thrown into the bag and the three end pieces of a loaf of bread. If I'm lucky, I have plenty to accommodate the recipe. As it is, on the day before Thanksgiving, I check and see and if necessary, I bake a pan of cornbread and hide it so that I have a jump start on the morning.
Simple Cornbread Recipe - I edited to add this cornbread recipe after it was brought to my attention that it was needed.
There is actually a written out 'oven schedule' for Thanksgiving morning here and there is no time allotted for making cornbread in advance of dressing.
If I'm on top of things, I've pre-chopped the onions and the celery. If not, either I, or one of my excellently trained children, who all have mad knife skills, do the job first thing in the morning. The smell of celery and onion sauteing is an essential part of breakfast on Thanksgiving here.
I'm not a huge fan of celery... the only time I purchase it is at Thanksgiving. As no store will sell you three stalks, I chop the remainder of then entire head of celery and freeze it in 3 stalk portions. While not as textural as fresh celery, in my case, this works for those several other times over the winter that I'm going to make dressing.
Anyway, back to making dressing...
When the onion and celery is tender, set it aside to cool.
You get a big old bowl... HUGE bowl... don't say I didn't warn you...
and into the bowl you throw the equivalent of a skillet of cornbread.
(If you've frozen the cornbread, please thaw it out first before trying to crumble it into the big bowl.)
You toss in the leftover biscuits from breakfast.
(You did make biscuits for breakfast, right?)
and several slices of day old bread.
You're after the equivalent of about the same volume as the cornbread.
Put your hands in there, or the clean hands of any unsuspecting kid standing near by, and crumble and squish until you have a good even consistency of crumbs. This is kinda fun in a weird squishy way.
Now, the veggies should be cool... so it's time to make the magic happen.
Into the big bowl with the crumbled breads, toss the veggies and the following:
2 1/2 to 3 cups of broth, preferably homemade turkey but chicken broth will work fine too.
You and I need to have a discussion on the merits of homemade broth over store bought, if , at this point, you need to open cans or boxes of the storebought stuff.
You can use it this time, if you must!
Add a cup of milk, 2 beaten eggs and the following list of seasonings.
Actually measure the seasonings... and don't go nuts in any direction the first time you make it... this makes a very, very pleasantly seasoned dressing. Future adventures in cornbread dressing can be seasoned anyway you wish.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Now, the really seriously squishy fun begins.
Put your hands in there and squish the dressing ingredients all together.
You're after a consistent, runny pudding sort of texture.
Nom... runny pudding sort of texture... what a description.
When you've achieved this, pour the dressing into a 9 by 13 pan or an equivalent sized casserole dish and pop it in to bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. I have had to cook it longer, on mornings when I had to keep opening the oven door. Check it with a bamboo skewer, over in the middle of the dressing. It should come out with only a few moist crumbs.
Now, if you've read all the way to here, you're seriously interested in making the dressing and a few, if not all, of my readers will be delighted to know that I've figured out how to share with you a printable recipe!
Try this: Simple Southern Cornbread Dressing