Thursday, November 29, 2007

Great Turkey Dressing

Time to lighten up.

I made the best turkey dressing I've ever made this year. Of course when it comes to my cooking, 99% of the credit goes to Miss Jane, my late, great, gorgeous southern mother, whom I call "Miss Jane" with a certain very affectionate and specifically southern nuance. It's a tribute to the Queen.

So, assuming that you like improv in cooking, here goes, and if you mess it up, just know it's your fault:

Make a batch of cornbread. You know what a "batch" is, right? The Three Rivers brand is terrific if you can get it. I can't. (I live in a culinary backwater when it comes to the three major food groups: country ham, corn bread, and shrimp.) Fortunately, this year my cousin took pity and sent me some very special corn meal ground at the old mill in Cades Cove, TN, our ancestral turf.

Let it sit a spell to cool. Then crumble the cornbread into nickle-size bits and mix it with an equal measure of seasoned breadcrumbs (like Pepperidge Farm's). Add chopped up scallions, diced yellow onion, and diced celery, salt, and ground black pepper to taste. I usually use at least a cup of diced yellow onion, a cup of diced celery, and half a cup of diced scallions. It won't hurt to let this mixture stand at room temperature for half a day or so, tossing often.

Brown and crumble a pound of Jimmy Dean's sage sausage. Drain. Mix in the sausage (amount appropriate to the mixture you've set aside--your call). Refrigerate the mix and let it stand overnight.

When it's time to cook the dressing, but not before, add half a can or so of chicken broth and a raw egg -- enough to make the mixture stick together when a bit of it is squeezed. Transfer to a lightly greased baking pan. Make sure not to pack down the moistened mix. Keep it lumpy. It'll taste better.

Bake covered for 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees F. Then uncover and bake until brown on top and heated well throughout--another 10 or 15 minutes, depending on the quantity you're making, your altitude, the temperature outside, and your oven.

(You can make this up and freeze it, but NEVER, NEVER freeze raw egg. If you freeze it, thaw the egg-free mix and add the egg right before you plan to cook the dressing.)

I'm sure the secret this year had to be that Cades Cove cornmeal, but just in case, it might have had something to do with letting the mixture sit long enough for all the flavors to blend nicely.

If you make it, let me know how it goes. (You wouldn't dream of eating turkey dressing without turkey and gravy, would you?)