A greatly anticipated part of every Christmas and Thanksgiving meal was my grandmother’s sage dressing. Everyone in my family loved this dressing. We wanted to learn how to make it just like her, but my grandmother was not a patient woman. She’d rather do it herself than teach her daughters or granddaughters how to prepare it.
It’s difficult to pass on the art of measuring the right amount of flour, sugar, or salt in your hand, but I persisted in my efforts to learn from the best cook I’ve ever known. To learn her ways, I measured a teaspoon of salt or other spices and put it in her hand so she could tell me if it “was enough” or “not near enough.” In this way, I learned this recipe from her.
Good dressing starts with good cornbread. My grandmother believed that making cornbread with buttermilk made it taste best. When planning to use cornbread for dressing, her advice was to add extra buttermilk for a moister bread. Make it ahead of time or even the night before because you must wait for the turkey to roast before making the dressing.
An 8×8 pan of cornbread makes enough dressing to feed about 15 in my home with leftovers.
(The recipe for cornbread is on the back of the corn meal package. It’s basically corn meal, vegetable oil, and buttermilk. I buy self-rising white corn meal.)
Crumble the baked cornbread into a large mixing bowl. Chop a medium onion and add. Cut four celery stalks into bite-sized pieces and add to the mixture.
Here’s the tricky part. I use a turkey bag to roast my turkey. Roasting this way usually gives me about 3 cups of juices. Start with about 3 cups of broth from the turkey—if you have that much—and stir. The best dressing is a little moist so it should look a bit runny. If not, add more broth. If it’s still dry after adding all the broth, you can add canned turkey stock or chicken stock. Turkey juices directly from your turkey give it the best flavor.
After this is mixed, add 2 teaspoons of sage or to taste. I usually taste the mixture a couple of times, adding a little at a time to get the perfect amount of sage.
Choose a baking dish larger than the amount of cornbread prepared. For example, if the cornbread fit in a 8×8 pan, bake the dressing in a 13×9 pan. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot.
Hope your family enjoys this dressing as much as mine does.
-Sandra Merville Hart