The holidays are such a special time of year.
Everyone seems a little cheerier, things move a little slower. We take the time to appreciate everything going on around us and make memories that will stay with us for years to come.
One of the first memories I have is of a family Thanksgiving years ago. I remember well the tastes, smells, warmth, love, and laughter that filled that day.
But, as the years have passed, I’ve found that the family doesn’t get together as much as we once did.
Grandparents have passed; the “kids” are now married with children of their own. Our family, like many, has moved, changed, and grown — natural effects of the passage of time. We still keep in touch, but miles and years have taken their toll on our familiarity. With technology, our physical presence isn’t as necessary as it once was. We can simply Skype or text and have fulfilled our commitment.
The members of my family all still have one thing in common:
No matter where we are in our lives, or the world, our holiday celebrations wouldn’t be the same without one item we all grew up with, a dish passed down from my grandmother.
My grandmother was a kind and loving woman, one who could make even guests feel like family. She never met a stranger and her home was always open to anyone who might wander in.
As was the case with many Southern women of her generation, food was one of the ways she showed us her love. You never left her house without a full stomach and you never ate anything out of a box. Her creations were an extension of herself and, especially at the holidays, her love and kindness were evident in all that she made.
One dish in particular, her cornbread dressing, brings back memories of family and years gone by. It was passed down to her five children and then passed down to me.
I hope that if you have the chance to make it, the time and effort that go into it will be evidence of the love you have for your family, just as it is for mine.
Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing:
- 1 – 10″ batch of cornbread made in a cast iron skillet, cooled and crumbled (Chef’s Tip: I use Dixie Lily and the included recipe, omitting the sugar)
- 6-8 slices of day old white bread, torn into pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
- 3 sticks of unsalted butter (not margarine)
- 1 container of chicken broth (quart sized)
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 2 Tbsp. rubbed sage
- 2 Tbsp. poultry seasoning
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bake the cornbread according to the package instructions, omitting the sugar. Cool and crumble the cornbread into a large bowl and add in the torn slices of bread.
In a medium sauté pan, sauté the onion and celery with two sticks of butter until translucent. (Chef’s Tip: If you don’t care for chunks of veggies, you can pulse them in the food processor after they are cooked.)
Add the veggie/butter mixture to the bread mix. Add in about 2 cups of chicken broth and mix to incorporate. Once the mix has cooled slightly, add the eggs so they won’t scramble.
Add the seasonings and combine. (Chef’s Tip: If you don’t care for sage, then feel free to cut back on the amount.) Add in chicken broth until the consistency is about like that of oatmeal.
I taste the raw dressing before I bake it to make sure the seasoning is good. I know, I know—raw eggs!—but I haven’t died yet. (Chef’s Tip: The sage and poultry seasoning will become more pronounced during baking.)
Pour into a large greased pan. This makes a healthy sized portion. Take the final stick of butter and break it up into small pieces over the top of the dressing.
Bake covered with foil for 40-45 minutes at 350°F or until mostly set.
Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 5-10 minutes more until the top turns a delicious golden brown.
Serve with gravy, turkey, ham, or anything that you like.
By Josh Nowell, Chef Manager, FLIK Independent Dining at Mount de Sales