As we are getting ready for the Holiday Season, I’ve been on the phone a couple of times with my daughter, Gina, getting ready for the preparation of my family-famous Cornbread Dressing. She is taking on the task this year of preparing the dressing for our family gathering. Over the years, I’ve had a few people ask for my recipe so thought that now is as good a time as any to share that with you.
Grams’ Turkey and Dressing
Let me first say that this makes a LOT. I do not know how to make a little bit of dressing. Since we normally have between 10 and 20 family members present, we need a LOT. If you don’t need a LOT, then you will have to figure out how much of whatever is needed to make what you need. Good luck and have fun. I must also say that in the past couple of years, certain family members (Will, Gina) have asked if they could have their own personal pan of dressing with gravy to take home (they don’t want to have to fight to make a plate for themselves as normal people do), so I may have to increase my normal recipe listed below to make that possible. No one said this was a healthy dressing — it’s just my family’s dressing that they love and covet and beg for and better learn to make themselves because I’m not going to live forever.
Largest Turkey I can find
2 large bags Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Dressing (Gold Package)
3 Boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix
3-4 Large Onions
6-8 Large Colored Bell Peppers – 3 Red, 3 Yellow, 2 Green
1 Container of Chicken bouillon Cubes
6 Cans Chicken Broth
2 Turkey Legs
1 Turkey Breast
2 pounds Butter
2-1/2 Dozen Hard Boiled Eggs
Gallon-size Freezer Bags
Thick Aluminum Foil
Additional items that make all the craziness not so crazy:
1 bottle of Kahlua
1 quart of Half and Half
1 Jar of Maraschino Cherries
1. Mix a White Russian (Kahlua, Half and Half, and a couple of cherries) to sip on while doing your preliminary cooking. When finished, make another.
2. Put Turkey Legs and Turkey Breast in oven to cook. Use 1 stick of butter to cover them well. Add salt and pepper as needed. Put foil over meat to keep from drying out. When baked and cooled well, strip meat from bones for use in dressing and gravy. Place in a storage container (I normally use gallon-size freezer bags) and place in fridge. You will need to divide these so that half can be used in the dressing and half in the gravy. Place drippings in a jar and place in fridge. Keep bones to throw into the pot while making the broth.
3. Hard boil, cool, peel, and chop the 2 dozen eggs. Place in a gallon-size storage bag and place in fridge. You will need to half these, half go in the dressing, half in the gravy.
4. Cook the 3 boxes of jiffy cornbread according to package directions. When cooled, break up well, place in storage bag and save for dressing.
5. In a Large pan, melt 1 stick of butter. Chop the onions and bell peppers and sauté until tender. You may need to add more butter. You want the veggies coated well. When done, place them and all drippings in container and place in fridge. You will need to separate these, using ½ for the dressing and ½ for the gravy.
6. Around 10 – 12 that night, I place my turkey in the oven at 250 degrees. I pat dry the turkey, salt and pepper it well, and place into the pan. Make sure that you have lined the bottom of pan well with thick tin foil. Use plenty so that you can totally wrap turkey and seal it well before placing in oven. I add one and a half sticks of sliced butter inside the turkey. I add another stick or sometimes more butter to the top and into leg cracks of turkey. I add about a 12 oz. cup of water to the bottom of the turkey pan. Place in oven and leave it alone until the next morning. Depending on size of turkey, it should be done first thing in morning. Remove from oven and let cool. Reserve all drippings.
1. Mix a White Russian (Kahlua, Half and Half, and a couple of cherries) to sip on while doing your cooking. When finished, make another.
2. Remove turkey from oven. As soon as possible, drain all drippings from pan and re-wrap turkey well so that it will remain moist. Depending upon how much meat I got from legs and breasts, I sometimes need to use a bit more meat from the actual turkey to put in the dressing and gravy. It’s your decision as to how much meat you use for what. We like a LOT of meat in our dressing and in our gravy.
3. Using a large pot, add water and 10 – 12 bouillon cubes to make additional broth to be used in dressing and gravy. I normally add the turkey leg bones to the large pot of water and bouillon cubes while making additional broth. Let this simmer for an hour or so. Keep an eye on it so that it stays full. (Add additional water as necessary and maybe more bouillon cubes. You want this to be strong.) Sometimes, I need to make more so make sure you have plenty of bouillon cubes on hand. If you made this last night, hopefully you placed in fridge before bed to be used when mixing up dressing.
4. Mix up dressing – In an extremely large container, mix Jiffy Mix cornbread, Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, half of the pepper/onion mixture, half of the chopped eggs. Mix these items until well combined. Add chopped up turkey meat from the legs and breast. Mix again until well combined. Add salt and pepper as needed. Don’t need much salt, but we like a lot of pepper. Do this for your own taste. Place this mixture into your butter-greased baking dishes. I normally get 2 – 3 of the largest baking dishes and then several smaller dishes of dressing. (We like to have extras for folks to take home.) Once placed into the baking dishes, start pouring your broth into the dishes. I will use some canned broth and some of the broth I made using the bouillon cubes. I normally will use more canned broth for the dressing and save a good bit of the home-made broth for my gravy. Use whatever you like, though. You will want the dressing to be soupy. Very soupy. So soupy so that when you place a spoon on the top of the dressing, broth will fill into the spoon. That soupy. I then pepper the top and cut up a stick of butter (at least – depends on how big your casserole dish is) to place on the top of the dressing before cooking. You want a LOT of butter. Act accordingly. This will be baked in a 325 – 350 degree oven until browned and juices have been absorbed. Do NOT overbake. I am terrible at saying how long to bake something. I don’t measure time; I just watch it and take it out when done, but it’s probably 45 minutes to an hour for a large pan. For a smaller pan, you figure it out.
5. It’s probably time for another White Russian (or a beer, or sweet tea, or wine – whatever floats your boat.)
I use my largest soup pot to make my gravy in, but start it out in a large chicken fryer. Using your drippings that you removed from the turkey legs and breast pan, as well as the drippings from your big turkey, place them in the chicken fryer. Heat and make a roux using flour and water and add slowly to the drippings to thicken it up. When at the right consistency (you decide what that consistency is), add a can of broth. Mix well and let it heat up well before transferring to the large soup pot. At this point, just start adding stuff. I add the chopped up turkey from the legs and breast that I made, half of the chopped eggs, and half of the onion/bell pepper mixture. This is where I decide whether or not I need to strip more turkey meat from the big turkey. Do so if needed. Did I say that we like LOTS of meat in our gravy? Add broth as needed. Do this slowly so that it doesn’t become too watery. Sometimes, I need to make more roux to add – depends on how crazy I’ve gotten in making too much. (Although Will says that you can never have too much gravy.) Continue to let gravy simmer, stirring occasionally and slapping people’s hands when they decide to just eat spoonfuls of gravy. Add salt and pepper as needed. (Sidenote: A couple of years ago, my grandson, Jake, asked for a bowl after everyone was finished eating. When his mom asked why he needed it, he said that he wanted some soup. Upon questioning, he pointed her to the gravy and said that he wanted a bowl of Grams’ Chicken Soup. Go figure.)
At this point, it’s usually pretty crazy in the kitchen so it’s most definitely time for another White Russian (or a beer, or sweet tea, or wine – whatever floats your boat. Shoot, it may even be time for a nap.)
Cook on, people. Cook on.
Now, it’s time to bring on the fixings — Cranberry Sauce, Sweet potato casserole, Mashed potatoes, Mac & Cheese, Broccoli salad, Squash casserole, Pickle tray, Ambrosia, Assorted pies, cakes, cookies, or Pumpkin rolls, Hot rolls and butter, and whatever else you happen to come up with. Oh, my gosh, and we can’t forget Sandra’s famous Green S*it. It wouldn’t be a holiday dinner without it. (And that’s a story for another day.) After all the prepping and cooking, it’s time for all that family fun and tummy stuffing.
No matter what you cook, what you buy, where you go, or who you are with — I hope you have a Blessed Thanksgiving holiday.