Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday!
In the past it was Christmas, but as I get older, the stress of it all wears me out. I think it illustrates just how crazy all of our lives are these days. We just want one day where we allow ourselves to eat too much, watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade followed by some football and take a well deserved nap! It’s decadent for sure, but it’s what we do … and what we need, right?
In addition to catching up with family and friends, one of the things I most look forward to at Thanksgiving is my grandmother’s dressing. And yes, it’s dressing, not stuffing. I can honestly say I have never eaten stuffing … nope, never. I’m sure it’s tasty, but stuffing has never been a part of my family’s recipe box. Back to the dressing: it is my beloved Mammy’s (yep, that’s what we called my grandmother) recipe that she made until she simply could no longer. Mammy passed away in January 2000, the same year our first child was born. My mom learned to make the dressing in the kitchen alongside Mammy and she will tell you that her dressing is good, but Mammy’s was better. I think Mom should finally give herself a little credit. It is just as good, if not better!
So the dressing is like none that I have ever tasted anywhere. It is cornbread based which is fairly common in the South. But there is something different. I have looked through loads of recipes to find what makes ours unique. One thing my mom insists upon is Adams cornmeal, milled in Dothan, Alabama (where I was born). She either buys it mail order or when she’s visiting in Alabama. She uses the cornmeal to make an egg bread which consists of buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, celery and green onions. She bakes this in Mammy’s cast iron skillet (that fact is never lost on any of us … I’m lucky enough to have my great grandmother’s cast iron skillet). After the egg bread is done, Mom goes about mixing it all together with rich hen broth and either a few slices of white bread or leftover biscuits. She works it in a big bowl to get the right consistency and seasons it with only salt and pepper (no sage, no thyme … it’s really the only dressing recipe I’ve ever seen that doesn’t contain sage, thyme or other herbs). My dad will usually stand over her making sure enough salt and pepper gets added (I usually join the salting and the peppering because I like lots of pepper too). The dressing is then baked in a casserole dish until it is golden and the sides get crispy and yummy.
Thanksgiving is most definitely about traditions. This little recipe has been our tradition for as long as I can remember. Sure, we love all the other goodies around the table, but this is what we dream about all year long. Although my mom typically hosts Thanksgiving (and politely insists on making the whole meal), Mammy's cornbread dressing will always be a part of my little family’s tradition too.
Cheers to a happy Thanksgiving with beloved family recipes, flowing wine, football, family, friends and … of course a few naps in between!