To Dress or To Stuff: Holiday Food Series, Part 1

For the next month or so I’ll be sharing some of our families favorite foods to make together and eat during the holiday season! Here’s to a tasty 2017 holiday season, from my family to yours.

To dress, or to stuff? The great Thanksgiving debate will continue forever, probably. But in our house, we never stuffed. That’s because we’ve been making my great-grandma’s cornbread dressing my whole life. Literally. So what’s the difference? Well, traditionally, “stuffing” is actually stuffed into the turkey, cooking simultaneously. “Dressing” is similar in consistency but spread into a baking dish and cooks in the oven separately than the turkey.

The woman who started it all.

My great-grandmother was a force to be reckoned with. She raised 4 children, beginning smack in the middle of the great depression, sometimes completely on her own. An expert seamstress, she hand stitched countless quilts, including one for every grandchild. She was also a great home cook, and cooked everything from memory. I don’t recall her ever looking at a cookbook or recipe card. Even her recipes that have been written down for me are very vague and include lots of “to taste” measurements. 😉 I was lucky enough to have her in my life until I was 24. And ever since then my mom and I have been making her cornbread dressing at every Thanksgiving (and sometimes Christmas too!).

Considering I watched this be made the first 24 years of my life, and have now been helping make it the last 12 years; I can pretty much do it in my sleep. Thanksgiving morning, usually at my parent’s house, we wake up, my brother makes the coffee, we eat a quick breakfast; and then I get out the iron skillets and start making cornbread. Yes, it’s “skillets” plural, we make a lot of cornbread. My dad is the taste tester, so he always gets a slice first, then the rest goes in the dressing.



Making the magic happen.


We pull out the largest bowl we can find in my mom’s kitchen, and begin adding everything in. Breaking up the cornbread by hand. Someone has also had the job of toasting a half a loaf of sandwich bread as well, it goes into the bowl too. Then softened sticks of butter, chopped onion and celery, then warmed up chicken broth, eggs, milk, sage and salt & pepper.

It’s all stirred together with a wooden spoon, and more broth or milk added until its the “right” consistency. Right meaning very wet, almost a really thick batter. And it’s all to taste, with my mom and I sampling it until it tastes how we know it should taste. That sounds silly, but it’s just the way its always been done. There are no measurements for the sage or salt, because great-grandma didn’t measure anything. She tasted everything.

Once it’s the “right” consistency and it tastes “right” the mixture gets spread into pyrex dishes, usually enough to fill a 9×13 and an 8×8 (sometimes more if we went a little crazy). And then into the oven at 350 for about an hour, give or take. Basically until its dark brown on top and cooked through in the center.

What you get in the end is a true guilty pleasure of savory dishes, a melt in your mouth cornbread dressing that’s the perfect compliment to any turkey dinner. It’s also delightful the next day as leftovers (in fact my mom will tell you she likes it even better the next day).

I’m honored to have shared this recipe with you and yours, and maybe you can now enjoy something new with your family this holiday season. What are your family’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Share with us in the comments!

Cornbread Dressing

For the Cornbread:

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs melted shortening or cooking oil
  • Add cornmeal measurement off box (most often Alber’s Yellow Cornmeal)

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, pour into a 10 inch iron skillet. Bake at 350 degrees until edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the Dressing:

  • Homemade cornbread (see above)
  • 8 slices of toasted white bread
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • salt & pepper – to taste
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • Ground sage – to taste
  • 5 eggs
  • Milk – to taste
  • Warm turkey or chicken broth – to taste/consistency

Directions: Break up the cornbread into a LARGE mixing bowl (the biggest one you can find). Tear up the toasted breadh and add to the bowl. Toss in your chopped vegetables and sticks of butter. Pour at least a couple cups of warm broth over the softened butter. Stir everything together as the butter begins to melt. Add your eggs, and a little milk. Season with your salt & pepper and ground sage, tasting as you go. Add more brother or milk as needed, consistency should be very wet, almost like a very, very thick batter. When you’re satisfied with the taste and texture, spread into your greased pyrex dishes (probably at least one 9×13 and one 8×8). Bake at 350 for an hour, or until the top is dark brown and cooked through in the center (not mushy).

Scoop out dressing into serving dishes, and enjoy! This recipe will easily make enough for 6-8 guests, with leftovers!


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