Food & Drink

Here's a Southern Turkey Cornbread Dressing worthy of your Thanksgiving table

Southern Turkey Cornbread Dressing is stuffed with smoked turkey for a hearty casserole. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Southern Turkey Cornbread Dressing is stuffed with smoked turkey for a hearty casserole. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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With Thanksgiving around the corner, we definitely have a lot to be thankful for in 2020.

Here in Iowa alone, we have survived COVID-19, a derecho and this new way of classroom/home schooling, to say the very least. I know most of us will continue to follow the guidelines of COVID-19 in an attempt to protect ourselves and our loved ones, but we still have to eat, don’t we?

In my family, when I was a child we always had a huge Thanksgiving dinner. My maternal grandmother, aunts, mother and anyone else who had the ability to help in any way was put to work. We were all happy to do our parts. For a whole week straight, we made sure the house was deep- cleaned and disinfected and decorated. The house was filled with many yummy smells ranging from mixed greens with ham hocks, honey and brown sugar glazed ham, homemade baked goods and one of my favorite traditional holiday side dishes — Southern Turkey Cornbread Dressing. Paired with cranberry sauce, it was the highlight of my winter holidays as a child.

I think I was about 7 years old when I was allowed to help with my first Thanksgiving dinner meal prep.

Oh, was I excited! I think I was the only kid in my family at that time that thought it was a privilege and an honor to be a part of getting up before the sun with the elder women in my family and having breakfast that consisted mostly of old-school oatmeal with raisins and cut up cooked apples in it, fresh-baked biscuits from scratch and some Folgers coffee that had a lot of cream and sugar in it.

Now energized to the max, I was given step- by-step instructions on how to cut up vegetables for the dressing. Oh, I thought I was definitely coming up in the world. None of the name calling, ribbing or taunts from my slightly older cousins — who weren’t helping — bothered me. I was in my happy place and was not budging on account of them. The kitchen still is my happy place.

I was slow at first and made a few minor mistakes, but I never cut myself. My grandmother had so much patience with me. She and “The Louisiana Chef” on PBS Channel 11 in Chicago were my biggest influences on my culinary skills.

The flavor combinations that make up this slightly sweet, well-seasoned, savory Southern Turkey Cornbread Dressing are versatile, like most of my recipes. Some go the Dutch route, as I found out from my good friend Holly Vorhies, and add raisins. Some use chopped boiled eggs and others incorporate oysters. Feel free to explore different cultural ingredient combinations. Who knows? They may become a favorite of yours. Whichever ingredients you choose to use, just be sure not to forget to add some love.

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Now let’s roll up those sleeves, wash our hands and get ready to create your very own version of Southern Turkey Cornbread Dressing.

Southern Turkey Cornbread Dressing

3 cups chopped celery

2 cups chopped white onions

2 cups chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons dried sage

1 teaspoon salt

3 to 6 cups chicken broth (to desired consistency)

1 can of cream of chicken soup

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1/2 bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix (Your choice. I used traditional for this recipe)

6 eggs

Optional: Prepared and shredded smoked turkey wings/legs (I used a package that had 1 wing and one leg)

Prepared cornbread (recipe for 9-by-13 pan) feel free to use a box brand such as 2 boxes Jiffy Mix or Krusteez

If using cornbread mix, prepare cornbread according to the package directions. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl or in the baking dish you will use to bake the dressing in (because I don’t like washing dishes) crumble the cornbread as finely as possible. Add the dry stuffing to the cornbread crumbles.

Add the sage, black pepper and salt, stir.

Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven, add onions, bell peppers and celery and sautee until softened. Allow to cool; and then add to the seasoned cornbread and stuffing mixture.

Add in the broth in small increments until very moist but not soupy.

This is also a good place to check your seasoning levels. You may want to add more sage like I did, but be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want green dressing.

Next, add in the beaten eggs, cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups and mix well. Make sure everything is well incorporated evenly throughout. The dressing will have a thick puddinglike texture.

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Now you are ready to add the shredded smoked turkey, again make sure it is evenly distributed throughout.

If you have not been mixing in the pan you will cook it in, pour dressing in pan and bake for one hour on 350 degrees uncovered. It will be crusty on top and moist underneath.

This Southern Cornbread Dressing can be made in advance, which is helpful, considering how much food there is to make during the holidays.

Source: Michelle Madden

Reach Michelle Madden at Da Munchie Plug LLC on Facebook.

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