Cooking up Memories-Beth Reeves

November 20th, 2015
Cooking up Memories
Me and Gank

Gank took me to see my new baby brother

Christmas 1988

Christmas 1988 at my grandparents house

Made from scratch cornbread

Made from scratch cornbread {the secret…a cast iron skillet}

Cooking skipped a generation in my family. As soon as I married and had a home of my own, my grandmother passed along the responsibility of preparing and hosting Thanksgiving dinner to me. She knew I could handle it because I had spent countless hours as a young girl watching her cook 3 square meals a day, from scratch, for my grandfather. Now, she did not teach me to cook with a measuring cup because she never used one herself. She taught me to cook with my senses. Does it look right? Does taste right? Does is smell good? So, I’m not going to promise that this recipe is going to come out right on your first or even second attempt but keep trying and you will eventually get it exactly the way you want it.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the entire year and nothing makes me happier than waking up hours before the sun comes up to prepare a turkey and cook the dressing. Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without Gank’s Southern Cornbread Dressing! (Yes, we called my grandmother Gank.) This is the way I make it!

Gank’s Southern Cornbread Dressing

1 box of Quaker Oats yellow corn meal
Homade chicken stock or 6-8 cans of chicken broth
1 sleeve of saltine crackers
8-10 slices of white bread
2c celery
2c onions
1 stick of butter
4-6 large eggs

Serving Size – A LOT! You will want leftovers.

Make Cornbread! You can actually make this a week or two beforehand and freeze. Just grab the recipe for cornbread off the box. I recommend QuakerOats YELLOW Corn Meal. It must be yellow. And by all means, use buttermilk when making the Cornbread. It will not be the same if you don’t. You are going to need about 8 cups of crumbled cornbread for the dressing.

Make your own Chicken Stock! This too can be made and frozen. Here is a short how to. Put a whole chicken in a stock pot and fill with water. Cut up big chunks of celery, onion, and garlic. Throw it in with the chicken. Season the water with whole peppercorns, a generous amount of salt, celery salt, poultry seasoning, and a dash of olive oil. Boil until the chicken is done. Strain the liquid. I have no clue how many cups you actually need when making the dressing. I usually make as much as my stock pot will hold. I do always have a backup can or two of chicken stock I bought from the store just in case I didn’t make enough.

Now, it’s time to assemble!

In a large, and it will need to be large, mixing bowl, crumble 8 cups of prepared cornbread, a sleeve of Saltine crackers (use the real brand), and 8-10 pieces of dried white bread (I prefer Sunbeam). Using your hands, start mixing. Set aside.

Dice up celery and onions. My family prefers that these be finely chopped. For this amount of dressing, I usually chop at least 2 cups of celery and 2 cups of onions. That’s a rough estimate.

In a saute pan, melt 1 stick of butter. Saute the celery and onions until transparent. This is where your house starts smelling good!

Pour the sauteed celery and onions into your bowl of bread mix. Add 4-6 large eggs. The eggs will help the dressing to hold together. Mix well.

Now comes the part that you just have to feel it. How much stock to add? My grandmother never gave me an answer and every time I make dressing it’s always a little different. Start by slowly adding the stock. The bread mix will begin to soak it up pretty quickly. Pour and stir, pour and stir. The mixture should eventually have the consistency of jello. But, nothing is worse than dry dressing so when it gets to the point you think it is at the right consistency, add a little more. Just a touch.

Pour into a casserole dish. This amount of dressing will probably take two dishes. Don’t make it too thin though. You want it to be at least an 1 1/2″ thick in your pan.

I don’t have an answer for you on how long to cook it. Dressing takes time. Put your oven on 350 and watch it. It will take at least 45 minutes if not longer. Cook it until your house smells like grandma’s!

Thanks Pop and Gank for giving me a love of cooking! I think you would be proud!

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