Tuesday, November 16, 2010
South Louisiana Cornbread Dressing
My grandparents used to own a cemetery in Louisiana. I was six and my sister was three when late one Thanksgiving afternoon, after we had all eaten, my oldest cousin snuck away to set up a prank on all of us younger cousins, 6 of us to be exact with the 4 oldest being boys (Seven with the oldest prankster). He then came inside, got us and took us up to the only above ground mausoleum in the cemetery, telling us we just "HAD" to come and see.
Once we got close, he told us the ghosts were trying to get out and were coming to get us and kill us! He had wedged a turkey thigh bone into the crack around the perimeter of the door and poured ketchup all over it to make it look like blood! When we got really close to look, he shoved us towards the door and screamed, "THEY'RE GETTING OUT" and ran down the hill and left us all there!
We were screaming and crying and trying to run away, bumping into each other and grabbing onto each other while still trying to escape (envision The Keystone Kops). All of my cousins older than myself and my sister were able to run but we, being the youngest, were so terrified and crying, we couldn't see and we stumbled around, running and falling until we made it down the hill and back home. My sister and I were traumatized about that for years to come!
Needless to say, our "old prankster" got the stick and we got the laugh! We sought revenge later in the weekend by luring him into the basement and later into the cemetery barn and scaring the bejeezus outta him both times by making ghost sounds and bumping around! Revenge is a dish best served COLD!
At any rate, my grandmother made the best cornbread dressing and it has been our family tradition to have it with Giblet gravy since long before I was born. She passed her recipes on to me and I took over some of the holiday cooking duties in my mid 20’s. Later I introduced Spinach Madeline (see recipe in another post) and that has now become our other traditional favorite dish along with Sweet Potato Casserole.
3 tablespoons bacon drippings or butter
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups corn meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450°F. Put the bacon drippings/butter in a 9x13-inch baking dish and put it in the oven while it is preheating. It will melt while you're mixing up the batter.
Beat the eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Add the corn meal, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and stir to combine. Add the buttermilk and stir well. Remove the hot dish from the oven. Swirl the dish to coat it with melted bacon drippings/butter then pour it into the batter and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake 20 to 25 minutes. The cornbread will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Make the cornbread a day before you intend to make your dressing. Leave it out, uncovered, overnight.
1 9x13-inch pan of cornbread, crumbled
10 pieces white or whole wheat bread, heels are good (left out overnight)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped (2-1/2 to 3 cups)
1 large green pepper, chopped
3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks)
4 cups chicken broth, canned or homemade
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
Preheat oven to 375°F. Crumble the cornbread and white bread into a very large baking dish or pan (This is the pan you will cook your dressing in, and you need room to stir it while it's cooking). Combine the vegetables with the bread crumbs and mix well. Melt the butter and add it and the beaten eggs, chicken broth and stir. (You may need a little more chicken broth – its better if it's too moist than too dry; the uncooked dressing should be a little on the slushy side.) Add poultry seasoning, rubbed sage, black pepper, and mix thoroughly.
Bake 15 minutes then stir dressing from the sides of the pan into the rest so that it cooks uniformly. Recheck the seasonings, adding more if necessary. Bake until browning on sides and top and center has set.