Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mama Dot's Cornbread Dressing

My beloved maternal grandmother, affectionately know to her grandchildren as Mama Dot, hosted Thanksgiving every year and everyone loved her dressing.  It's very moist and rich.

She left this Earth ten years ago and holidays just don't quite seem the same.  I make this now to keep her close.  Mom won't make it.  She says I have The Touch.  Aunts and cousins who live far away have been e-mailing me to request the recipe.    Here it is.

16 oz. package Pepperidge Farm Herb-Seasoned Stuffing Crumbs (no substitutions)
16 oz. package Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing Crumbs (no substitutions)
4 large stalks of celery, from the heart (leaves included), very thinly sliced
2 large sweet onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter (or use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup bacon drippings)
Table or kosher salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (My addition and I love it.  She didn't use it.)
2 quarts low-sodium chicken or turkey stock  (Buy all the broth or stock-in-a-box that you can.  It comes in handy at the holidays!)
Turkey drippings
Last year, I added 2 large eggs and 1 cup crushed oyster crackers and I loved the result.  It seemed puffier.

Pour the crumbs and oyster crackers (if using) into the largest bowl you own.  Set aside.

Saute the celery and onions in the butter in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Cook until tender and very lightly browned.  Add a pinch of salt to the veggies while they're cooking.  Add to the crumbs.  Sprinkle on extra salt and seasonings.  Add one quart of the stock and a ladleful of turkey drippings.  Mix well with a heavy wooden spoon.  Mama Dot added the stock until the mixture was extra soupy.  She always said you had to add plenty to make a good finished product.  I use less stock than she did.  I keep adding stock until it looks like this:

Taste it.  Seasoned fine, but blah?  Add some more turkey drippings.  Extra pepper is always good.  I used the Old Bay to give it a more rounded flavor.  It worked really well with the poultry seasoning.

When it tastes perfectly seasoned and rich enough and the consistency is where you want it to be, you can add the eggs (if using).    Scoop the dressing into a well-greased baking pan (I use a Martha Stewart lasagna pan from K-Mart.)  Bake it in a preheated 350 degree oven, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown.
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