Saturday, November 17, 2018

Dressing for Thanksgiving and I'm Not Talking About the New Outfit You Got at JC Penny's

Every family has their Thanksgiving traditions and, if your family is like mine, you better not mess with them. Oh, it's ok to bring a brand new recipe to the Thanksgiving dinner, but you better be sure you have all the family favorites, too. You know the ones I'm talking about...the sweet potatoes with the crunchy brown sugar and pecan topping, the green beans with the horseradish sauce and the homemade rolls made with All Bran. Or, probably, your family favorites are something else altogether.

And then, there's the dressing. Notice I did not say stuffing. This is Alabama. We don't stuff, except ourselves. There is no stuffing of the bird. Dressing is a dish unto itself and it is sacrosanct and shall not be dilly dallied with. To that end, here are our, as in my family's, do's and don't's for perfect Thanksgiving dressing.

1. Don't stuff. I know I already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Just don't. Dressing is too important not to have its own serving dish.

2. Do not, I repeat, do not put boiled eggs in the dressing. This is not negotiable. It is a texture that does not need to be there. Pieces of egg white trapped inside the dressing do not even look appetizing. I might also add, for much the same reason, I do not like marshmallows lurking in my salads. Again, just don't. Save those things for the hot chocolate, if you must.

3. Do not chop up chicken and distribute it throughout the dressing. This is turkey day, not chicken day. If you must have chicken in your dressing, that is for another day. On Thanksgiving, the turkey takes center stage and has it's own special platter, but the real star is the dressing that is served in a separate casserole dish without chicken.

4. If you can slice your dressing, it is dry. Dressing is not meant to be cut into wedges. It is meant to  be lovingly spooned, moist and wonderful, onto the dinner plates.

5. Do not overdo the sage. Sage should be added sparingly to enhance the flavor of the dressing, not overpower it.

6. Fruit does not belong in dressing. Take my word for this. Leave that to the stuffing people.

7. Start with good cornbread. By that, I mean homemade cornbread, not from a Jiffy mix, and no sugar. We are not making cake dressing, but that is a whole 'nother discussion. And buttermilk! Make your cornbread with buttermilk, not sweet milk. Did I even need to say that?

7.Use stale cornbread. Even though your cornbread was wonderful when you took it out of the oven, you are still going to have to let it dry out before making your dressing. So, crumble it up and let it set out on the counter for several hours before using.

8. Cut your celery and onions into small pieces before adding to your dressing. Nobody wants to bite into a giant hunk of onion or celery. And don't add them raw. Cook them in some butter and a little water before adding to the dressing.

9. You better be adding some other kind of bread to your cornbread to help keep the dressing from being too dry. My friend, Mary, adds biscuits. (She also adds boiled eggs, but we've already covered that topic.) We add an entire loaf of toasted white (not brown) bread and we mix it in so that you would never know it is there. It does not retain its cubeness like the bread in stuffing.

Notice the color of this broth. That deep brown color is FLAVOR.

10. Make homemade broth with chicken to add to your dressing. Save the pan drippings from cooking the turkey and add them to your broth. Deglaze the pan with a little chicken broth to scrape up all the tasty bits. I like to make a small turkey ahead of time for this purpose.  Don't throw out the neck and gizzard, as unappetizing as they look.  Cover them with chicken broth, simmer, strain and add that liquid to the rest of the broth for extra flavor. You can also supplement with boxed broth, but the boxed stuff should not be in place of the homemade broth. When I cook chicken for broth, I use the boxed broth in place of water in which to cook the chicken. Save some of your broth for gravy. (We also have a set of rules for Thanksgiving day gravy, but that is for another discussion.)

11. Use good butter when making dressing. Kerrygold is my favorite. This is not the time to skimp on quality ingredients. And don't even mention the word margarine.

12. Do not overcook! If you do, you will have to break rule number 4.

Those are my family's rules for dressing. I understand different families have different rules. What are your rules?
Three Friends and a Fork
Three Friends and a Fork

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