The holidays are steeped in tradition, even in the kitchen. The holidays are not complete without favorite dishes made by loving hands from long ago. Since for most of us, the holidays are the only time we eat traditional holiday foods and desserts, it is only natural to be nostalgic to about momma’s dressing or Aunt Betty’s chocolate pie.
I recently asked Facebook and Twitter friends, “what is your favorite holiday food?” Hands down, turkey and dressing topped the list. But there were so many variations of desserts and side dishes, I thought “’tis the season” for a holiday food series.
Kathryn Davis said it best: “Dressing! Always the dressing!”
Sherrie Palmertree said she loved dressing, while Lynn Hartshorn Chicarell said she has to have turkey, and she likes to cook it herself. Tracy Palmer has to have turkey.
Linda Jo Templeton said she loves dressing and she will make hers a few days ahead of time and put it in the freezer.
“I think it’s better that way, and easier,” Templeton said.
Dorothy Pepper, Ruth Odom, Paula Threet, Gail Dorroh, Stephanie Smith, Becky Johnson, Christie Colvin, Jill Nelson, Barbara Coats and SaraJane Curry all love dressing for the holidays.
Jill Brown said she liked dressing with lots of sage. I am not one for sage and poultry seasoning in my dressing, because that’s how my mom always fixed dressing.
Pam Lee of Carrollton said she has to have fried turkey with “Mama’s Dressing” and Murr’s Cranberry Relish.
Pam Lee’s Fried Turkey
6 quarts hot water
1 pound kosher salt
5 pounds ice
1 (13 to 14-pound) turkey, with giblets removed
17 oz bottle Tony Chachere’s Creole Style Butter Marinade
Tony Chachere’s Creole Dry Seasoning to taste
Approximately 4 to 4 1/2 gallons peanut oil*
*Note: In order to determine the correct amount of oil, place the turkey into the pot that you will be frying it in, add water just until it barely covers the top of the turkey and is at least 4 to 5 inches below the top of the pot. This will be the amount of oil you use for frying the turkey.
Place the hot water and kosher salt into a 5-gallon upright drink cooler and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve completely. Add the ice and stir until the mixture is cool. Gently lower the turkey into the container. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure that it is fully immersed in the brine. Cover and set in a COOL dry place for 8 -16 hours. [I put mine back in the refrigerator.]
Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse and pat dry. Inject with creole butter, using the whole bottle. Rub the outside of the turkey with dry seasoning until well coated and sprinkle into the turkey. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.
Place the oil into a 28 to 30-quart pot and set over high heat on an outside propane burner with a sturdy structure. Bring the temperature of the oil to 250 degrees F. Once the temperature has reached 250, slowly lower the bird into the oil and bring the oil to 350 degrees F. Once it has reached 350, lower the heat in order to maintain 350 degrees F. After 35 minutes, check the temperature of the turkey using a probe thermometer. Once the breast reaches 151 degrees F, gently remove from the oil and allow to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to carving. The bird will reach an internal temperature of 161 degrees F due to carry over cooking. Carve as desired.
Timing note: To estimate how long to cook the turkey, allow 3 minutes per pound and add 5 minutes more. However, to determine the actual temperature, use a meat thermometer!
Mama’s recipe for Dressing—from Pam Lee
Bread for Dressing
2 cups self-rising corn meal
1/34 cup Turner’s Old World Bulgarian buttermilk
¼ cup oleo
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease skillet and place in oven to heat. Combine ingredients and blend well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 20-30 minutes. If buttermilk is sour use 1/8 teaspoon soda to cut the sour taste.
4 cups chicken broth
6-8 cups crumbled cornbread
2 cups crumbled stale biscuits – not light bread or stuffing!
1 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
½ teaspoon sage
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
A little garlic – optional
1 stick butter
Heat broth in Dutch oven and add in crumbled cornbread and biscuits. Keep adding broth as needed to get to the consistency you want. Taste and add additional seasoning as needed. Just before pouring up, add a stick of butter and stir until melted. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until brown. If you like a dry dressing, cook longer.
This will make two 9×13 pans of dressing. Raw dressing will keep in refrigerator for several days or in freezer for several months.
An alternative to the traditional Southern Chicken Dressing is a family favorite dish we eat throughout the year –Squash dressing. My mother-in-law is not a big meat-eater and enjoys the vegetable alternative.
Sandra’s Squash Dressing
1 med. onion, chopped
1 stick margarine, melted
2 cups cooked squash
1 can of cream of chicken soup
2 cups crumbled cornbread
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion in melted margarine. Combine onion and margarine mixture with slightly beaten eggs. Add soup, squash, cornbread, salt and pepper. Mix well and pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
It is so interesting to see how so many enjoy cooking over the holidays and all of the food traditions surrounding the special days. But I think Frances Cresap has it right:
“I like the combination of all of it,” Cresap said. “Just seems that because it is (the holidays) everything tastes better.”
Have a holiday recipe you would like to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.