Thanksgiving was one of my mom’s favorite holidays. No present-buying stress… just good food and all of her family around us. She hosted every year — her family, my dad’s family, neighbors, friends — everyone was always welcome and we usually had over 20 people there. My Uncle Bill always smoked the turkey and brought it with him, leaving her free to focus on the sides and desserts.
Two years before her stroke, she hosted a big one. She was so excited her big sister was coming down from South Carolina with her daughter and grandkids.
Her cornbread dressing was always one of my favorite things — not overpowering (and definitely not stuffed inside the turkey!). Nothing funky — no secret ingredients — just a great, basic cornbread dressing.
And then, two years ago, my sister called me for the recipe and we couldn’t find it anywhere.
Luckily, mom had always talked about getting the recipe from the wife of dad’s first boss… and the small-town stars aligned. I taught the grandchildren of that boss. So a few texts later, I had the original, in beautiful, spidery cursive. It started with boiling a hen, which mom NEVER did… but it got my sisters and I close enough that between the four of us, we recreated my mom’s cornbread dressing.
And this year, my aunt is coming in again from South Carolina. It’s been 14 years! The kids have grown a ton, and I honestly can’t wait to host everyone.
I hope your Thanksgiving is full of family, fun, and good food.
- 2 recipes Basic Cornbread (or 2 9-inch pans of cooked cornbread)
- 4 pieces of white bread, well-toasted
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped fine
- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 4 cups chicken broth (you could use vegetable broth and easily make this a vegetarian side)
- 1 – 2 cups cooked chicken or turkey meat (optional — mom usually left this out, but I like it. I usually use rotisserie chicken meat)
- Make the cornbread. Allow to cool, then crumble into your largest mixing bowl.
- Toast the bread and then crumble/ shred it into the same bowl.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter and sauté the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool, then add them to the mixing bowl.
- Add poultry seasoning and cayenne. Taste for seasonings, especially for salt. The amount you need varies widely, depending on how salty your cornbread and chicken broth are. Add salt and pepper to taste before you add the raw eggs.
- Make sure the bread and vegetable mixture is room temperature — not hot! — then add the eggs and broth.
- Add chicken or turkey meat, if you are using it.
- Stir well to combine. The mixture should be “soupy” and very loose, not stiff. If you need to, add more broth.
- Pour into a greased 9×13 casserole.
- Bake at 325-350 until lightly browned and cooked through — about 45 minutes.
- Can be made in advance, frozen, and re-heated — just make sure to wrap it well to avoid freezer burn!
- If you want to taste it before you serve it, spoon some into a small ramekin (pictured above) and bake it separately.
*We ALWAYS double this… It freezes well
Pictures from the last big Thanksgiving with the Carolina cousins!