(I initially posted this last November, but the house is currently filled with the smell of cornbread, and the dressing process is well underway. I hope you take some time to count your blessings this weekend - I know I am.)
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I've always loved to cook and see family. We're the kind that stays, eats some more, and stays, naps a little, and stays, talk a lot, watch some football, stays a bit longer, and eventually waddle our way back to our cars with heaping plates of leftovers for the next day.
I thought I would share with you the killer cornbread dressing recipe from my Grandfather. I love to make it every year in his memory, in the very big silver "dressing bowl" he taught me to prepare it in.
The year before Papa Loyd died he was still stubbornly insisting on hosting Christmas Day dinner at his house like we always did. I went over to help with the preparations and brought my video camera to try and capture the infamous dressing recipe on tape. I let him boss me around and call all the shots - watching that video makes me laugh as I cry.
Me & Papa Loyd circa 1979
Papa Loyd's Holiday Dressing & Giblet GravyNote: no shortcuts allowed. No broth instead of homemade stock. No store bought cornbread. I've tried the shortcuts and they just. don't. work. It's not the same.1 hen (not chicken)2-3 onions, finely chopped4 stalks celery, finely chopped1 green bell pepper, finely chopped2 large pones cornbread (if you don't know what a pone is you have no business making this recipe)1/4 butter2 TBS yellow mustard2 TBS ketchup2 TBS Italian seasoning1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh sage, finely chopped (reduce amount if dried)3 slices bread, torn up into small pieces1 (8 oz.) can oysters, drained & chopped3 TBS jarred pimento, finely choppedsalt & pepper to tasteThe day before: cook cornbread & cool completely. Crumble both pones.Day of Thanksgiving:Remove giblets from hen and set aside.Rinse hen and place in stockpot & cover with water, about 8 cups. Simmer covered until done, reserving broth. De-bone hen & reserve meat.Preheat oven 350 degreesIn large saucepan melt butter & add onion, celery, and bell pepper. Add all the broth from hen, cover and simmer 10 minutes.In BIG ("dressing") bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, torn bread pieces, & the broth mix until it reaches spaghetti sauce consistency. If mix is too soupy, add more bread pieces.Add all the remaining ingredients & mix well.Pour mixture into a large roasting pan. Bake 1 hour until golden.Serve hot with giblet gravy & hen meat on the side.GIBLET GRAVY:Finely chop hen giblets.Simmer 3 cups chicken broth on stovetop. Add flour a little at a time, stirring constantly until a smooth, thin rue is formed. Add chopped giblets, blend well, and simmer.Salt, pepper, and otherwise season to taste, can add one or two sliced boiled eggs to gravy if you want to be extra-Southern.Yields: enough for a crowd of at least 10-15.