THINK OF THANKSGIVING, and chances are your mind immediately latches onto great food.
On Thanksgiving, my immediate family has two gut-stretching meals. Lunch is with Mary’s extended family: deep-fried turkey, ambrosia, 16-layer chocolate cake and homemade biscuits. Yum! Then we get to my family’s farm in Clover. At 80, Momma still spends days getting ready for this one meal. The dining room table is set for nine. Cakes are on the sideboard. The turkey is a rich brown, having been cooked by her long-standing, favorite method: in a brown grocery bag. The sweet potato casserole is topped with brown sugar and pecans. Giblet gravy is steaming as the loaf of homemade Sally Lunn bread comes out of the oven.
For me, it’s not really Thanksgiving unless there is Momma’s cornbread dressing. It takes two days to make, as the biscuits and cornbread have to crumble just right. It is good the first time with giblet gravy. As my visit stretches into the weekend, it is my constant companion as I watch football. Sometimes I microwave it; other times I take it straight from the refrigerator to the La-Z-Boy. Cornbread dressing is my essential Thanksgiving dish, and I can almost taste the love my mom puts into making it.
Before you leave us, I'd like to share my mom’s cornbread dressing recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
GRANDMOTHER LOVE’S OLD-FASHIONED CORNBREAD DRESSING
1 large (13-by-9-by-2-inch) pan day-old cornbread, crumbled*
16–18 day-old biscuits (about 4 cups), crumbled*
1 cup celery, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
4–5 teaspoons ground sage
1 stick margarine, chopped
8 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
2 10.5-ounce cans onion soup
Turkey neck and giblets, cooked in about 1½ quarts of water and chopped very fine
Salt and pepper to taste
Reserve the broth that the turkey neck and giblets were cooked in. Combine cornbread, biscuits, celery, onion, sage, margarine, eggs, soup and turkey, mixing thoroughly as you add each one. Add about 4 cups of broth as the last ingredient and mix well. Mixture should be about the consistency of pound cake batter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into large baking dish greased with margarine. Bake at 400 degrees for 45–60 minutes or until it begins to brown on top. * For best results, use Ballard-style cornbread (such as Martha White Family-Size White Cornbread Mix) and Southern-style biscuits. Do not substitute flaky biscuits or other kinds of bread