This being Thanksgiving Week, if not quite the Day, I entertain visions of great feasts past with the warmest of sentiment. Growing up, my mom served as kitchen manager on the day as she prepared all the bits and pieces of our family dinner on this day of great feasting. We did not yet call it “Turkey Day”, but turkey certainly was the center of our attention. Mom prepped the bird, stuffing it with her version of dressing that remains the gold standard of stuffings in my experience…nobody made it better...ever. The big bird (not a Sesame Street character yet either) went into the oven sometime before noon, if I remember correctly, and then mom would open the oven at prescribed times to baste her until she was golden brown on the outside and rolling with juice on the inside. There were many other dishes set on our table for sure, black olives, which we entertained ourselves with by putting them on our fingers rather than actually eating them. There were smooth as silk mashed potatoes and gravy made from the turkey drippings. There were sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows, (or were they yams…maybe the same thing?). Pumpkin pie awaited in the kitchen to eventually put us all over the edge of satiation. The turkey itself wasn’t the greatest in the world, I’m sure; we had more fun manhandling the massive drumsticks and wings, which we considered finger food, than actually enjoying the rather bland meat itself. We utilized cranberry jelly and gravy to put some life into the meat. But the stuffing! It was a wonder of textures and unusual flavors and its breadiness had soaked inside the bird for hours so it was filled with greasy grace. Of all the dishes on the table, heaping servings of the stuffing cooked inside the bird itself, this was my greatest Thanksgiving delight and still is. Mom’s version remains, as I said, the gold standard! Happily, my sisters have preserved both mom’s recipe cards and the actual recipe mom herself used as her guide (see picture below). When my sister, Sheila, was serving in the military as a nurse back east, she wrote down the recipe while mom dictated it to her over an expensive long-distance phone call. The ingredient list is here, but either the rest is on the other side of the index card or mom just figured Sheila knew what to actually do with it all. If you’d like to try it out, I’ll presume you, too, know what to do next. What you are not supposed to do anymore, so I hear, is actually stuff it into the turkey…alas!
This Thanksgiving, I am particularly grateful to God for turkey stuffing, my sisters and brothers, my dad, and of course, our family’s kitchen manager: mom. Blessings to you all as well as you celebrate this warm and lovely feast. May there be ever more gratitude in our world, our nation, and our families.
Chopped dry bread
Saute celery, onions, and sausage
Add poultry seasoning
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp salt & pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
3 shakes cloves
Moisten, add 2 boullion in 1 cup H20
My other sister, Patty, has had mom's recipe in her head for years...and shared it with me with a few of her adaptations. Her version adds details that might be important to the success of the recipe:
2 boxes 12 oz ( 10 to 14 oz will work but adjust chicken broth accordingly)
2 Jimmy Dean sausages (I like maple flavor)
1 stalk of celery
I onion chopped finely 2/3 cup or to your liking.
3 cloves of minced garlic
Season to taste rosemary, parsley and sage. ( maybe a bit of poultry seasoning) fresh herbs are the best but seasonings will work.
Salt and pepper
Melt 1/2 cup of butter and add one carton of chicken broth. Add more or less according to your likings and breadcrumbs used. (Some are drier than others)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Brown pork sausage. Put aside on a paper towel over a plate. Sauté celery, garlic and onion in the same pan as the pork sausage. Cook until fragrant with salt and pepper. ( the celery will be bright green when cooked)
Add sausage, veggies and herbs to bread crumbs.
Pour butter and broth to crumbs. Stir and let sit for awhile so broth can soak into crumbs. If to dry add more broth.
Bake in oiled or sprayed casserole dish for 1 hour in a 350 degree oven or dressing reaches 160 to”degrees. Leave uncovered for crunchy top or covered for more moist dressing.
Can put some dressing in turkey cavity. Do not overfill. Cook with turkey. (At your own risk!)