Here's the story about my Thanksgiving dressing: My grandmother and great-grandmother made the best turkey dressing, EVER. They tore up fresh bread and allowed it to get stale. They stirred in eggs. They liberally poured the turkey broth. THEY MELTED ONE HUNDRED POUNDS OF BUTTER. They seasoned and tasted and spooned it into baking dishes, because my family never eats in-the-bird stuffing. It was moist and steamy in the middle, brown on the top and crispy around the edges, so delicious it made grown men cry. With thankfulness.
Then both of them passed on, God rest their sweet souls, and in the way of families, we found out that the recipe for Thanksgiving dressing had gone on with them, along with the molasses cookie recipe we all loved so much. Dorie Greenspan solved the cookie dilemma a couple of years ago in Baking: From My Home to Yours, but the dressing recipe fell to me to sort out, whether by alchemy or kitchen wizardry or some other nefarious means. For quite a few years running, I met with success with reasonable facsimiles. But then I hit some kind of Dressing Wall and for four Thanksgivings in a row, I failed so miserably to come up a winning recipe, I practically had people vomiting into the shrubbery outside of Pat and Angie's house, where my family gathers to eat the holiday meal.
One year, I used a Martha Stewart recipe from her website and borrible exceeding were the results. Please note that I followed that recipe to the letter, so the problem was not with me. It was with the sixteen ribs of celery and two pounds of onions called for, which created a slimy mess that even the dogs refused to eat. No kidding.
Then there was the year when I decided that the dressing would be better if I baked it in the oven and then put it in the slow-cooker to keep warm. Bad mistake. Huge. All the edge-crispyness and brown-toppishness disappeared and the whole gorgeous pan of dressing dissolved into a brown mush which probably would have tasted okay, except that it looked like poop so no one would eat it. Including the dogs, who eat their own vomit.
There was nothing but sadness in my heart about my Thanksgiving dressing, especially since family members were beginning to flinch and gather in small groups, whispering furtively, as they saw me coming through the front door of Pat and Angie's house bearing a casserole dish. Then Amy came to my rescue and I used her granny-in-law's recipe last year with a few minor tweaks and my entire family surprised me by taking that first hesitant bite and then looking up at me with shining faces. "That's really GOOD!" they said, and for the first time in years, I took home an empty casserole dish. Score!
So just in case any of you readers have seemingly insurmountable problems with dressing (the Thanksgiving kind, not the mixing-stripes-with-plaids-and-polka dots kind), use these recipes. Your family will be amazed and astounded and you don't have to tell them the big secret, which is three words long: STOVE TOP STUFFING.
1 pound sage sausage, browned and chopped into small pieces
4 boxes Stove-Top Stuffing Cornbread mix
2 sticks butter
2 medium stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 eggs, beaten
approximately 5 cups of chicken or turkey broth/stock
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a 9"x13" casserole dish. In a large mixing bowl, empty the four packets of Stove-Top Stuffing and set aside. In a small bowl, beat the eggs until well mixed. Melt the two sticks of butter in a small saucepan; simmer the celery and onion until both are translucent. Combine all ingredients with the contents of the STS packets in the large mixing bowl: about four cups of the broth, the eggs, the butter/celery/onion. Stir thoroughly to combine. Add more broth if mixture seems dry (it should be a bit wet; not VERY wet, but slightly wet.)
Empty the stuffing into the prepared casserole dish; cover with foil shiny side down and bake for thirty-five minutes. Remove foil and bake for twenty-five more minutes or until the top is slightly brown and crispy. Serve hot with slices of turkey and enough gravy to fill a bathtub.
4 boxes of chicken or turkey Stove Top Stuffing
2 sticks butter
2 medium stalks celery, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries
approximately five cups chicken or turkey broth
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a 9"x13" casserole dish. Empty the packets of Stove Top Stuffing into a large mixing bowl and add the cranberries and walnuts; set aside. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, set aside. Melt the butter in a small saucepan; add the sage, celery and onion and cook until translucent. Combine all ingredients in the large mixing bowl: stuffing packets/cranberries/walnuts, eggs, butter mixture. Add broth, stirring thoroughly to combine. The dressing should be a bit wet.
Turn out into buttered casserole dish, cover with foil (shiny side down) and bake in oven for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for twenty-five more minutes, or until the top is browned and crispy at the edges. Serve with great fanfare, because this is a truly lovely, delicious and festive-looking holiday dish.
OYSTER DRESSING (ew)
1 box of chicken or turkey Stove Top Stuffing
1/2 stick butter
1 small rib of celery, minced
1/2 medium onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 pint fresh oysters, minced, liquid strained and reserved in a small bowl
approximately 1 or 2 cups chicken or turkey broth
Only if you have to, preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a small casserole plate (mine is about a six-inch diameter dish); set aside. If you're absolutely certain that you must, empty the STS packet into a medium mixing bowl. Reluctantly beat the egg and add to STS mixture. In firm denial of your nameless fear, melt the butter and add the pepper, celery and onion; cook until vegetables are translucent. With a sense of impending doom, add to STS mixture in bowl. Cringing in dread, add minced oysters and the strained liquid; stir. Add more chicken or turkey broth as needed until the stuffing is slightly wet.
Fighting back nausea, cover casserole dish with foil, shiny side down, and bake in the oven for twenty minutes; remove foil and bake for another twenty-five minutes, until stuffing is golden on top and slightly crispy around the edges. Serve hot with love for your relatives who actually eat that stuff. Sit slumped in a chair with a medicinal glass of brandy. Weep.