Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cornbread Dressing Anyone?

Is everyone ready for the holidays? Got the recipe books down off the top shelf of the cabinet and the pages marked for cranberry salad, pumpkin pies, pecan pie, three tiered banana nut cake, hot rolls and cornbread dressing?
I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday and I can't wait for the kids to all come home. It's a wonderful noisy zoo and I love every minute of it. Of course by the end of the day I'm in total agreement with the lady who said the most beautiful sight in the world is the tail lights of the cars as the grandkids all go home after a holiday.

In My Give A Damn's Busted (Oct.) a snow and ice storm keeps everyone in Mingus for the Thanksgiving holiday. So they have a big holiday meal at the Honky Tonk. I did not even stutter when I let one of Larissa's friends make the turkey and dressing because cornbread dressing is NOT my speciality. Then in Honky Tonk Christmas (Oct.) Sharlene and Holt find themselves in Corn, Oklahoma for the holidays and Sharlene's Momma made the dressing. I just let her go about her business in the kitchen and didn't even include her method in the book. Just thinking about making it gives me the hives and makes my family run in the opposite direction.

It all goes back to ... well, a long time ago! I spent my first year away from home in Pennsylvania. Thanksgiving was held at Husband's grandma's house and they served up a tasty substitute for dressing but it wasn't the real thing and I did do some genuine pouting

The next year we were in Oklahoma. I'd survived one year without dressing on Thanksgiving but two years would cause me to lose my Rebel status and that was one scary idea.

Poppa butchered a hog and sugar cured a ham the month before the holiday. I held my breath hoping Momma wouldn't say we were having ham, but I turned blue in vain. The verdict from the Queen She-Coon in Johnston County, Oklahoma was ham and all the fixin's that went with it and no dressing. Dear Lord, the world came to a screeching halt and I feared the sun wouldn't come up on Thanksgiving day. All was bleak and dreary.
So being the mature nineteen year old married woman I was, I decided I'd make the chicken and dressing. It couldn't be such a big deal anyway! Boil a chicken, toss in a few bread crumbs and some seasoning. Anyone could do that! Right?

I boiled. I baked bread. I crumbled. I sauteed onions and celery. I mixed and added broth. And then it was time for the sage. Momma cooked by the "add and taste" method but those eggs I'd just tossed in were raw and I couldn't bring myself to taste the concoction. So after I'd added two tablespoons of sage so I decided I would cook by the "add and smell" method. I inhaled deeply and it didn't smell right so I added two more level tablespoons of ground sage. Still didn't smell right so I added two more ... and two more ... until the bottle was empty. Smelled like sage then, by golly.

And the whole house smelled like Thanksgiving when it was cooking. It looked somewhat like a Class A roof shingle when I took it out of the oven, but I'd made giblet gravy and I had no doubts that would soften it right up. We sat down to dinner and I chiseled out a portion very carefully because Momma said if I broke a plate with that stuff I had to do the dinner dishes all by myself. The first bite told me that I might have overdone the sage. I guess the look on my face confirmed that suspicion because no one else was brave enough to try it and Poppa fed the rest to the hogs that afternoon. They rooted it out onto the ground, attempted to bury it and threatened to run away if Poppa put any more to their trough.

Momma learned her lesson about ham for Thanksgiving and made the dressing the rest of her life. Now that she's passed on, my sister has learned the knack of making it. If I mention even looking at a recipe for it, my family has other plans for the holiday. But I can share a recipe for southern pecan pie and no one complains when it shows up on the dessert table!


One Pie Shell (made from scratch or bought frozen)
1 c. sugar
1 c. dark Karo (do not substitute waffle syrup)
2 tsp. melted butter (that, darlin', is butter not margarine)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup of finely chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine syrup, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and pecans in a large bowl and stir well. Pour into the pie shell and bake one hour. NOTE: I put the pie on a cookie sheet because it can boil over and I absolutely hate to clean the oven. And be sure to flick a little flour dust on your nose just before serving and tell everyone that a pecan pie is only for an advanced chef and they could never master the job!
What's your biggest goof on Thanksgiving? And what's your favorite food?


  1. Too funny, Carolyn!! I don't eat stuffing because I'm too busy with potatoes and gravy (and my family never made it), so my daughter always made it!

  2. Why is it a woman can put meal after meal on the table flawlessly, for DECADES but she never stops hearing about the one dish that didn't quite turn out thirty years ago? My mom accidentally dashed vanilla into a stew instead of sherry FIFTY years ago and it still gets mentioned. No justice in this life for a well intended Thanksgiving cook.

  3. Oh Carolyn, what a great story. I love stuffing. My mother in law makes wonderful homemade stuffing. But the pecan pie, now that's my weakness. I LOVE pecan pie. I've been known to buy one and eat it in the car on the way home with a plastic spoon.

  4. Hey, Carolyn! I so enjoyed this post : ) Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I actually prepare the whole Thanksgiving dinner several times a year. It's my favorite meal! I am a Southerner who loves cornbread dressing. It's almost a meal in itself, and there are so many variations of the recipe. I make mine with chicken broth, real butter, celery, onions and a touch of poultry seasoning. I buy the dry cornbread stuffing crumbs and add all that good stuff and then stuff myself ; ) I love cranberry sauce, and fresh cranberry sauce is very easy to make. Pumpkin pie with whipped topping--too good! I have a streusel topped pumpkin pie recipe made with sweetened condensed milk, and it's my favorite way to eat pumpkin pie. Of course, the turkey is the star of the show, and I love turkey salad (better than chicken salad)! I come from a long line of great Southern cooks. I always remind people that Southern women wield a mean skillet and rolling pin! My great-grandmother had her own smokehouse and cured hams. My grandmother was the greatest cook ever, and she is the one who taught me to cook. My mom was a specialty cook--a "pinch-hitter". She didn't cook a wide variety of foods, but what she did cook was the best of it's kind! She knew it, too!

  5. I can make stuffing, but really suck when it comes to pecan pie. Mine are either runny or rock hard. But, yeah. The mistakes are never forgotten, even if we've learned from them. Great post!

  6. I'm still reminded of the Turkey Meatloaf I made several years ago. There was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't "my" meatloaf and therefore no one liked it. I've raised a bunch of food snobs. When I met my husband, he routinely put ketchup on meat just to cover the overcooked stuff his mother served. The first real family dinner he came to at my house, I made a London Broil and when he asked for Ketchup, I told him that was an insult. He quickly learned what good food was and has been a snob ever since.

    I do a great Thanksgiving, I did have one year with a new really horrible stove and it took 6 hours for the Turkey to cook. I still haven't hear the end of that either. Lately, we've been going to Longwood Gardens for Thanksgiving. I love seeing the Gardens all decorated for Christmas, the food is amazing and there are no dishes!

  7. Loved the story of that dark period in your life: the Years of No Dressing. I understand your distress.
    Dressing is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.

    As far as I'm concerned, there's no point in having turkey without it--in fact, when turkeys are on special, I've been known to buy one, because I have a taste for some dressing.

    About sage. Sage is tricky stuff. You need a lot (relative to the amounts of the other spices) but if you put in too much, the dressing tastes bitter.

    It also makes a big difference if your jar of ground sage is fresh or not. If it isn't, you can add more and more, trying to get that sage smell, and wind up with dressing that's only a little sage-y and a lot bitter.

  8. Hi y'all! Glad to see all the comments this morning.
    Terry: Now I'm hungry for potatoes and gravy!
    Grace: That makes me recall the time my son was going to be this great chef and put dill in his stew!
    Anita: You do know that pecan pie has no calories if you eat it in the car with a plastic spoon. The spoon and the secrecy take away all calories!
    Virginia: WOW! Several times a year. Can I move in next door to you?
    Cheryl: Trick is in finely chopping the pecans and not overcooking! But my kids will eat them anyway they can get them. With a spoon if they are runny!
    Robin: Love that story ... a food snob, huh? You've got to put that detail in a book or release it to me to use!
    MM: Thanks for the tips on sage! And yes it was a dark time in the life of this southern girl! LOL
    Thanks again to all of you! Oh, I forgot to give Husband credit for the two pictures in the blog. So pictures by Charles Brown!

  9. I absolutely loved your story, Carolyn. And nobody can make cornbread dressing as good as my mom. And I agree with you, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving, without it.

  10. Well, I know enough to stay away from the kitchen on Thanksgiving, but I love pumpkin pie!

  11. Oh, LOL, Carolyn! That was priceless! And a wonderful holiday memory, despite the poor hogs. :}

  12. Amelia: So could my Momma but even having her "taste" recipe in front of me didn't help.
    Shana: Me, too. Any kind, form or shape from plain old pie to pumpkin cheesecake.
    Kathyrne: I made it up to the hogs later when my brother and I set up a mash in the celler to make moonshine. Poppa found it and fed it to the hogs and they were really happy pigs that day.

  13. What a cute story! And so much sage. I'm sure you have lots of sage advice about sage. :-) I'm glad my mom still does Thanksgiving dinner. If I ever have to take over, we're having turkey Banquet TV dinners.

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  15. Carolyn! Y'all pickled the pigs ; )

  16. Olivia: TV dinners sound good when I'm in there cooking.
    Virginia: Yep, we did and they were healthy all winter.

  17. Hi Carolyn! I made gravy one year for Thanksgiving. The results were less than stellar. In fact they were less than edible. It sat a while in the bowl before it was served and somehow congealed into a mass of goo somewhat resembling cement. We couldn't get it out of the bowl if we wanted to, which of course no one did.

    Since then someone always volunteers to make gravy for me!

  18. Loved your story. DH must have stuffing at the holidays but I don't even try to make it myself. Anything I cook is a disaster with one exception. My Grandmother and Mom always make this amazing Mac N Cheese and its the only thing I've mastered. I make that one dish even though we pick up everything else. But I'm of the belief that Mac N Cheese is a critical part of EVERY meal:)

  19. Amanda: Love that story. Hope the bowl wasn't a precious antique! LOL
    Lisa: Can't have a meal without Mac N Cheese ... my son-in-law, who's the cook in their family (if daughter cooks, fire department is alerted to be on standby), brings that dish to our dinners and not a single noodle is leftover.

  20. Pecan pie is probaly my al time favorite dessert!!!!! And now your blog has me craving some big time. ;-)

  21. Carolyn you're hysterical! I think I got fatter just reading that reicpe. MMMMMMM

  22. Carolyn you're hysterical! I think I got fatter just reading that reicpe. MMMMMMM