Happy Thanksgiving

As a child, I remember Thanksgiving meals at my grandparents’ house. My brothers, sister, cousins, and I would play outside all morning and eat peanuts we roasted over the old wood burning stove. My grandfather grew peanuts so there was always plenty to keep us going until lunch.

Red cheeked and hungry, we would run into a house full of mouth watering aromas. After washing up, we would all gather around for the meal – we small ones at the kids’ table on the back porch and the adults in the dining room.  Before dining in we would stand in a circle holding hands around the “big” table and my grandfather would say the blessing.  All the wonderful dishes made it hard to sit through the prayer, but as I grew older I learned to listen to what he was saying and now, as an adult, I hear his words  echoed around my own Thanksgiving table. That’s what this celebration is all about, being thankful for the blessings of the year and rejoicing in the bounty of the harvest.

Many members of my family are gone now, but their memories are very much alive and with us on Thanksgiving. Every year I dig out my grandmother’s recipe for corn bread dressing and my sister always makes mother’s cranberry relish. My young nieces and nephews have taken the place of my brothers, sister and cousins around the kids’ table and we’re passing on to them this very American tradition that each family has made into their own.

This recipe is included in my cookbook. Click on the book image to learn more.Josephine Foster’s Cornbread Dressing

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 cups buttermilk

1 (6 to 7 pound) roasting chicken
8 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 celery rind, including leaves, chapped
1 medium onion, chopped
5 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
12 slices day-old white bread, crumbled
1 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 level tablespoon rubbed sage
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

First, prepare the cornbread batter: Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg and buttermilk, stirring well to combine.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Add bacon drippings to a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place in the oven for 4 minutes, or until it is hot.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven, and spoon the batter into the sizzling bacon drippings. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cornbread is lightly browned. Remove the skillet from the oven and turn the cornbread out onto a wire rack to cool.

Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken (reserve them if you’ll be making gravy). Thoroughly rinse the chicken inside and out. Place it in a stockpot, and cover it with cold water by about 2 inches.  Bring the water to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken and set aside while preparing the dressing. Reserve the broth.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, and set it aside.

Crumble the cooled cornbread into a large bowl. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the celery, onions, and green onions, and cook until they are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Then add the mixture to the bowl containing the cornbread. Also add the crumbled white bread, 2 ½ to 3 cups of the reserved chicken broth, the half-and-half, beaten eggs, salt, sage, and black pepper. Mix everything well to combine.  Taste for seasoning. Spoon the dressing mixture into the baking dish. Place the chicken on top of the dressing – either whole or cut in pieces. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is brown on top and the dressing bubbly around the edges. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

11 Responses to Happy Thanksgiving

  1. Josephine S. Chavez says:

    I enjoyed reading about your childhood memories at your grandparent’s home. When we are children we don’t know how to appreciate all the little things that surround us until we become adults. It is always so nice to remember all the nice things that we did with our family members, and grandparents if we were lucky to have them around. If you remember the blessing prayer your grandfather used to say before the meal, I would like a copy of it. I am always looking for different and interesting prayers to use before our meal. Thank you, Josephine

  2. Carol says:

    Thank you for the Thanksgiving newsletter and all it contains.

    Reminds me of the newsletters of yore when you packed a lot into it.

    Happy Thanksgiving. I do so enjoy you.

    A long time fan,

  3. Cindy says:

    Allen, thank you for sharing your childhood memories. Cornbread dressing is a tradition in my family as well. Growing up, I was always in charge of toasting and pinching the bread for the dressing. As I got older, I also chopped the green onions and celery. Now, that my mom is in Heaven, I make the dressing to share with my brothers and sister. Thanksgiving is a warm and wonderful time to share good food with family and thank God for all our blessings.

  4. Jean says:

    So many of us have much to be Thankfull for ….may all of America be blessed now and in the future.

  5. Jo Ann says:

    Allen, Thanks for sharing the memories of your early Thanksgiving celebrations and the recipe for the corn bread stuffing; it sure sounds delicious. We Americans have much to be thankful for. I have much to be thankful for as well; family, friends, a wonderful school district to teach in, plentiful food, a safe home and freedom. Happy Thanksgiving to you. Enjoy the time you spend with your family and continue to create good memories. Jo Ann

  6. gwennie says:

    Allen, I really enjoyed reading about your family Thanksgiving memories. It brings back so many memories of loved ones gone on before and puts a smile on my face.

  7. Joy says:

    sounds like a lot of us had similar thanksgiving experiences
    The difference at our place was rice dressing with chestnuts. This year I added some apples and it was very yummy.

  8. Lenore says:

    Enjoyed your memories of Thanksgiving. I remember good food, laughter and getting to see relatives I did not see often enough. And yes, the Thanksgiving prayer seemed to go on forever. My Grandmother was a warm loving women and my role model. Although she is no longer with us, I always enjoyed her apple pie. Imagine my delight to find an orchard last Thanksgiving that had Spy apples-the same apples she used. These are very difficult to find as they are an old apple variety. Well, I purchased and made my first Spy apple pie….also this year. It brings back memories of a very gracious, loving woman that I keep close in my heart.

  9. Judy P says:

    One of the main reasons to be thankful is that many of us DO have great memories of loved ones, role models, and good food and good times. We learned from them and love and remember them with fondness.
    To insert a little angst in here, we should never forget that there are MANY in our country who do not have that blessing (of a kind, caring family nor the financial means for a special, abundent meal). Therefore we should be doubly, triple-y grateful for our blessings which are often too many to count.

  10. Margaret says:

    I am interested in the recipe you had on Create today Nov 2 2014
    for Cornish hens, and the butternut squash recipe.

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