Like most families, we saw each other mostly on holidays, and the order of the day was, of course, the food. Turkey, in particular, with homemade cornbread stuffing, though there would be literally tons of other dishes and desserts. My mother and grandmother would usually handle the dressing personally, bickering good naturedly over amounts and cooking times up until the point that one of them went to sleep (as the stuffing is usually made the night before, and the bird is started in the morning.)
Nan: Doris, there’s not enough onions in this.
Mom: Niki won’t eat them if she can see them, Mom.
Nan: *Chuckling* Oh… I seem to remember someone else who used to say the same thing, we’ll just cut them smaller. I think this needs more sage, or maybe some poultry seasoning.
Mom: It seems right to me, but we’ll add a bit more if you think it needs it.
Nan: Oh… It’s fine if this is the way your kids like it…
All right, maybe just a tad.
Mom: O.K. Mom, but just a bit.
Nan: Didn’t we have more cornbread?
Mom: We did… I think Jerry got to it.
Nan: Does that boy ever stop eating?
I’ve generally shied away from the traditional version, both for the time it takes to make it properly and because I tend to be extremely messy when making it, but I took the plunge with dinner last night, just to have the taste of many, many happy days with me, and the memory of a very special lady at my table.
I hope Y’All enjoy, and whatever your holiday tradition is, be sure to share it with family.
- Heat a cast iron or other heavy bottomed pan over low heat. Add entire stick of butter and melt until the butter just begins to foam. Sweat onions and celery in butter with salt and pepper over low heat until nearly translucent, approximately 15 minutes.
- Add bread crumbs and cornbread crumbs in thirds, slowly folding in vegetables to coat. Add Sage and continue cooking over low heat, folding constantly. Add about 1/4 cup chicken stock every few minutes or when stuffing looks dry on the bottom. (The idea here is to moisten the dressing mix without getting it too wet, while toasting the cornbread crumbs slightly throughout the process. Cornbread stuffing should be relatively dry if being used to stuff a bird or peppers, and just wet enough to steam heavily if you plan to cook it on the side.)
- Place stuffing in oven safe casserole. Bake covered at 350°F for approximately 40 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 15 if desired to crisp up the top.
- While you can just stick it in the microwave, stuffing has a high water content and will tend to get rubbery. the best method is to heat in a heavy bottomed skillet over low heat, adding just a tiny bit of chicken stock as needed. it won’t be as pretty the second time around, but if anything, it tastes better!
What I would have done differently had I though of it at the time:
Nothing. Abso-freaking-lutely nothing. The only thing that would have made this better would have been having my sister here with me so that we could have bickered over amounts and cooking times. That would have made it perfect.