Thanksgiving Recipes You Wished You’d Made

Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread Dressing

My oldest son Richard explained how to make a Thanksgiving turkey, when he was four years old:

You get a turkey and put butter and cinnamon on it, and bake it for 60 minutes at 80 degrees.

I never gave his recipe a try (primarily because I was concerned about food poisoning) but I can report that he is now an excellent and creative cook.

When my youngest son Travis was in second grade, he gave this account of Thanksgiving at our house, in a school report.

I would get turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, milk and wine for my parents. Also pumpkin pie and pecan pie. I like cherry pie.

You put the turkey in the oven. That’s what we always do. You put green beans in a pot.

We have really fancy cups from a drawer where we keep things that can break very fragilly. We use lots of fancy dishes, forks and knives. We put these plastic flowers that look real and candles in the middle. We have these like placemats with little decorations on them; we’ve had them for years. I know there is one more thing, but I forgot…

I was prettied mortified that his teacher thought I used PLASTIC FLOWERS on my holiday dinner table, but glad he recognized that the Waterford stems were Italian fragile. Also, he hates green beans. He once held a green bean in his mouth for over an hour rather than swallowing it. I know.

I learned to make cornbread dressing by watching my grandmother, and improvising on my own. I’ve never mastered her technique of burning the cornbread to quite the carbonized flavor (“just scrape the burnt part off”), but as traditions go, this is one I’m just going to have to let go.

My sons and family love my dressing. I make seriously huge batches, starting with at least three recipes of cornbread as the base. My ex’s grandmother always bragged about how much her grandson loved her dressing, and would bring big pans of it to family gatherings, where no one in my family would touch the nasty stuff. I was vindicated when my ex said, in her presence, that I made the best dressing he had ever eaten. I still make it when my sons visit on the holidays, so then can take leftovers home with them. Travis reported that his dad ate everything I sent home, so now I put a note on the cover “for TRAVIS ONLY.”

Here is my approximate recipe. I’ve reduced the amounts to something a normal family would eat, I think.

Naomi’s Texas Cornbread Dressing

Make one batch of basic yellow cornbread, such as you find printed on the box of Aunt Jemima cornmeal. If you are inclined to add sugar, don’t. (What are you anyway, a heathen?) Cool, crumble up, leaving pieces the size of marbles. You can make this ahead of time and store in refrigeration, sealed.

Saute, in one stick of real butter, one medium-large yellow onion and about 4-6 ribs of celery, both coarsely chopped. (This is a holiday. You don’t eat this every day, or even every month. Just get over the calories, it will only be a teaspoon or so per serving). Saute until very soft and translucent, and set aside to cool slightly.  To make it easier to mix the seasonings in such large batches, I season this mixture directly – generously use pepper, about 2 teaspoons of rubbed sage, a teaspoon of poultry seasoning, and salt to taste.

Put cornbread into a large bowl. Beat two eggs and pour over, then add onion-butter mixture, and mix thoroughly. Then add either turkey or chicken stock,  until the mixture is fairly wet but not soggy. You can make some stock by simmering the neck or trimmings from your turkey. Personally I NEVER make gut gravy (which some people refer to as ‘giblet’ gravy in order to hide the truth from what they are trying to feed you). You can also used canned stock.

Turn all of this into an oiled baking dish, no more than 3″ deep. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F for about an hour, removing the foil during the last 15 minutes so that the top can brown and have a slight crust. Serve!  It’s wonderful with gravy as well.
Some options are to include some of the celery leaves, chopped as well, for more celery flavor if you like. I’ve also added some well-browned, high quality thick cut bacon, crumbled.
Enjoy, and let me know if you try it.

Categories: Family, Food

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13 replies

  1. A heathen putting sugar in cornbread? No it’s worse than that. My corn-bread baking mom and wife both came from Tennessee. Like them, I turn up my nose at sweet cornbread, and it’s gotta be made from white corn. Anything else is Yankee cornbread. But don’t get the idea that they were still fighting the Civil War, because they came from East Tennessee, the Republican part. So Republican, in fact, that the Confederacy had to dedicate an occupation force to keep a lid on things.

  2. This sounds delicious, but as a foreigner I’m a bit confused. Do you put this inside the turkey as well as a stuffing? Or don’t you do stuffing? We don’t do Thanksgiving but traditionally have turkey at Christmas (yes, even in the full heat of summer) and we would make something like this as a stuffing.

    • It’s the same as stuffing, but baked separately. It’s mostly a regional thing, although nowadays baking it separately is advised from a food safety view, because not getting it hot enough when inside the bird can cause food poisoning.

  3. That is exactly how I make it! Enjoyed your story.

  4. I personally enjoy sweet cornbread. My mom always put a very small amt of sugar in the cornbread and that is how we were taught to make it. She baked it in a cast iron skillet until golden brown…yum! Then we ate what was left crumbled into a glass of milk. That is so good. Don’t know it is “yankee” cornbread…she was 5th generation Texan.

  5. No one says you put a cup of sugar in the cornbread. Just a 1/2 tsp or so. Naomi ate lots and lots of cornbread growing up, and probably didn’t know about the sugar.

  6. Your mom makes a great pecan pie. It’s perfect. She made us on for Thanksgiving.

  7. I think I’ve fallen into a time warp. The date in the by-line does say 2013. My question this time around is how does one evaluate bacon for high quality?

  8. I reposted it for Thanksgiving week. 🙂

    Bacon? Meaty, thick cut, smokey. I’ve noticed some brands are flavorless, others seems to be seasoned better. Sometimes the delis have bacon by the pound, so I can just buy a few slices to try it out.

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