We are a three dressing family at Thanksgiving. My mama’s family always had cornbread dressing, my daddy’s family always had light bread dressing, and I fell in love with the meat dressing that was on the table when we visted my Aunt Carole and Uncle Ron Trone. When I began making my own Thanksgivings, I found I couldn’t do without any of them and now my children expect them all to make an appearance on the table.
It’s just what they knew.
My daughter Amanda’s favorite, by far, is Mama’s cornbread dressing. I believe her aunt, Duree Duran, was actually the one responsible for the original recipe. Like all dressings, it is somewhat open to interpretation. Mama was sometimes known to add bits of turkey or chicken when she made it, especially if she was just taking it as her contribution to dinner at someone else’s table. I like it made with the giblets (minus the rather tough gizzard), and if I’m not the one in possession of the turkey, I buy chicken hearts and livers to cook for the bird. My cats are happy when this happens, because they get a feast of freshly cooked hearts and livers for their own Thanksgiving dinner, as I couldn’t possibly use the entire package of each in the dressing.
This dressing is delicious either hot or at room temperature, which makes it an easy dish to make the day before and tuck into the fridge. Pull it out and set it on the table when you start cooking your meal, and it will be perfect by the time the turkey joins it.
You’ll want to make your cornbread the day before you make the dressing.
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal (yellow makes for a prettier cornbread, in my opinion.)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1 dollop (of a reasonable size) bacon grease
Preheat the oven to 425°. Plunk the bacon grease into a seasoned iron skillet and pop it in to heat with the oven. I’d tell you what size the skillet is, but I really don’t know. I’d guess either 8 or 10 inch, but I’m going with it’s not a small one and it’s not a hugical one. Good luck : )
Combine all the dry ingredients. Stir in the egg and the milk. Only stir until the ingredients are well combined (and not a moment longer.) Take the preheated skillet out of the oven and carefully pour the cornmeal mixture into it. The batter should sizzle when it hits the skillet and push the bacon grease out up and over the edges as it fills. When you’ve gotten all the batter in, you should see about half an inch of already cooking batter around the edge. This is essential for making the fabulously crisp, delicious, and incredibly unhealthy crust.
Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the top of the cornbread is cracked and golden.
- 1 day old baked cornbread
- Giblets (minus the gizzard) and neck from the turkey -OR-
- Chicken livers
- Chicken hearts (sometimes sold in packages of hearts and gizzards. You are welcome to use both, but I typically discard the tough gizzards)
- Enough stock to cover the giblets in a medium saucepan. I use my own vegetable stock, but commercial chicken or vegetable stock is perfectly fine. My Mama and Aunt Duree always used a can of chicken broth and added water until it covered the giblets.
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 hard boiled eggs
- 1 can cream of chicken soup (This is one of the few areas where I do not replace a canned, packaged or commercial product with my own non-chemically enhanced version. You absolutely must use the jiggly, gelatinous, pale yellow canned gloop for this recipe. I’ve tried using homemade. The dressing just isn’t the same without it.)
- One bunch of chopped green onions, green parts only. Cuz they’re prettier.
In a 2 quart saucepan, cover giblets and neck (if you have it) with the stock. Add a little water if you need to, but the stockier the better. Add the onion and celery and season with salt and pepper. Unless your eggs are already hard boiled, tuck the eggs in there to hard boil along with the giblets. It’s nice and efficient. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and cook gently for about thirty minutes. Remove the eggs and giblets to a plate to cool. Save the broth.
Break the cornbread into a large mixing bowl. Don’t crumble it. Just break it into medium-sized pieces. It will break down when you add the liquid, but the pieces of glorius crust will remain intact, giving the finished product a bit of texture and eye appeal. Add the cream of chicken soup and green onion. Chop the eggs and add them, as well. Finely chop the giblets and add as much or as little as you prefer. I typically add the whole heart and liver if using the giblets from the bird.
Pour about half the broth over all and mix well. The mixture should be rather soupy, as it bakes dry. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish and bake at 350° for about thirty minutes or until the top begins to brown.