Friday, November 21, 2014

Mama Bates' Turkey Cornbread Dressing

Thanksgiving has always been one of the best holidays of the year. It was just about right for visiting relatives. They usually traveled on Tuesday evening and left by Saturday night so they wouldn't have to attend church on Sunday. My Uncle Bryan, Aunt Arnettie, and Cousin Jane would come up from Meridian, Mississippi about once a year. 

Jane and I did not get along very well. We acted like two spoiled little girls. I think she was jealous because we looked so much alike, but she had large freckles all over her face, so it made her "not cute" when we were together. Plus, since her parents were deaf, she could get away with anything by telling them that I said something that I didn't say. 

Jane would always brag that her mother was the best cook, but no one could cook better than Mama Bates. Jane was her granddaughter too, but since she didn't see Mama that much, and I lived there, she was just jealous. She lived in an old wood house with a tin roof and outside facilities near Meridian. We lived in a large home on the mountain overlooking the Birmingham Airport. 

One Thanksgiving the clan came to visit. Mama was doing her best to get all the Thanksgiving Dinner items together and still cook meals for the company.

One good thing came of this, she had lots of leftover bread: biscuits, light bread, yeast rolls, and she made a large pan of cornbread so she could have half of it for her wonderful dressing.

Uncle Billy would come into the kitchen before the turkey was done and pour off the drippings in the pan into Mamas' Iron Dutch oven. Leave enough to baste the turkey to keep it from getting dry.

Giblet Gravy
  • She would cook the drippings until most of the water was gone out of it. 
  • She would then add a couple of heaping tablespoons of flour (constantly stirring, until browned)
  • Add one stick of butter
  • Finely chop one large yellow onion and add to the mix
  • Add a cup of black coffee and two cups of turkey stock 
  • Giblets from the turkey, finely chopped 
  • Add salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, celery salt  
  • Add a can of Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soup to the gravy if you want
  • Sometimes I add two or three chicken bouillon cubes with corresponding cups of water

Dressing
Mama would use a large metal bowl to make sure all the bread was broken apart into 1/2 inch pieces. 
Add:
  Six boiled, peeled, and chopped eggs
  One onion, chopped 
  One stick of butter
  Trim and chop two or three stems of celery
  Grate in one or two carrots
Mix everything together, 
Crack four eggs into a bowl, whip with a cup of water and add to the mix.
Stir everything together until it looks pretty even. 

Pour the dressing into a 9"x13" greased baking dish. Use a ladle and dip out giblet gravy over the dressing until it looks pretty wet.

If the turkey is not quite done, just put the dressing to the side to wait for the oven. When the turkey is done, place the dressing into the hot oven and cook on 350 degrees for about an hour. If it looks like the top is turning brown too soon, cover lightly with some foil and continue to bake until done. 

It is alright for the turkey to sit for a while before you cut it. You don't have to worry about it being cold, because the hot giblet gravy spooned over it on your plate will warm it back up. Not to mention, the turkey will be easier to cut after it has cooled off some. The dressing will also be easier to cut five to ten minutes after it comes out of the oven. If you have a large group, you may need to control the servings by cutting the dressing into squares and putting them on a platter.

I know this may seem confusing, but it comes from my memory, not a cookbook. The women in my family all seem to be natural cooks who instinctively add ingredients to taste. If you have questions, send to barbarapduke@yahoo.com, send your phone number and I will call you. This is not my primary email, but I do check it frequently.