When I made the first list last week of Thanksgiving dishes several cooks will bring to our shared Thanksgiving table, each dish started with a name, giving it a specific origin: Mrs. Moore's rolls, Colonel Newsom's ham, Elmwood Stock Farm's heritage turkey, and more. I love getting the recipes for once-a-year foods from my recipe box, remembering when I got them, honoring the people who cooked these recipes before me and the tables these foods graced.
This year I plan to make the dressing my wonderful first mother-in-law made. More than 30 years ago I wrote down a kind of a recipe for it, without key particulars like oven temperature -- as you will see. My mother-in-law told me she thought the recipe had come from Cissy Gregg, legendary mid-20th century food columnist for the Courier Journal. I haven't been able to confirm that, but I can confirm that this dressing is the best I have ever had. It manages to be both crispy and moist, with wonderful subtle flavors. It is delicious without the oysters, which is how I plan to make it this year.
I like that this dressing is made with leftover cornbread and biscuits, which Kentucky farm kitchens often had available. To use a phrase I heard over the weekend, this recipe also is a good place to "hide butter" - a lot of butter.
Cut up 6-8 ribs of celery from the outside of the stalk, and two onions. Cook with one stick butter (1/2 cup) and a little water until tender. Set aside.
Cook giblets, one onion, a couple of celery ribs, a bay leaf, one butter (1/2 cup) and a little water until well done.
Break up 6 cups of cornbread and 2 cups biscuits (my mother-in-law said she used more biscuits.) Add one teaspoon sage, one teaspoon thyme, one teaspoon baking powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour in one pint oysters, the cooked celery/onion mixture, and water as needed from the giblets.
Mix very lightly. Form into tennis-sized balls. Place touching each other in baking pans. Bake.
At about 375? For about 45 minutes? That's what I think I'll try.
For the turkey? Lynne Rosetto Casper's apple-y version that pleased us so much last year.
Photo credit: David Smith