Thursday, November 29, 2012

Southern Chicken & Dressing

This is the style of dressing I grew up on around the holidays. My grandma (Nanny) always made a HUGE batch of this for family gatherings, and she would always fill up a Tupperware dish and freeze it (because thats how awesome my Nanny is) just to send home with me... Along with her homemade giblet gravy, of course.

When I was a young airman and would still come home for the holidays, Nanny would even send me off with a Tupperware full of dressing. So, obviously, it is without a doubt my most favorite holiday dish. I could do without any other dish during the holidays, but there absolutely positively has to be Nanny's dressing.

Now, unbeknownst to me, there is a difference between Southern style dressing and the Northern stuff. I don't know. I've never actually stuffed a turkey or chicken with "stuffing" but I still thought dressing and stuffing were the same, North or South. Nope. Anyhoo, if you've never had Southern style dressing, it's pretty much the greatest stuff ever and you are all kinds of missing out on one of the finer things in life.

Now that I'm grown and living away from home without really coming around for the holidays, I call Nanny every year asking about this or that for the dressing.

I know this recipe by heart, but sometimes you just have to ask the expert now and then because, along with many many many other recipes that I use, there aren't any real measurements. This year I called Nanny while I was at the store, making sure I had everything I needed and she tells me: "well you need a good sized yellow onion and make sure you use enough sage, not too much, but enough so you can really taste the sage you know, and enough bread to mix with your cornbread, and however many eggs you like and pepper......" Ok, seriously. That happened. That's how we cook in my family. So forgive me in advance if I'm not 100% clear, but I'll do my best with this one.

Another important thing to note is that Nanny boils a whole chicken, debones it, shreds it, & makes gravy from the broth and giblets & uses the broth for the stuffing as well. That's where I draw the line. I have an extreme aversion to raw chicken, and I absolutely positively will not touch a whole raw chicken, much less mess with the skin and giblets and neck, oh my! So I am all about substitution. Instead of going through that whole painstaking disgusting process, I buy a regular rotisserie chicken from the store, remove the skin, and use all (dark & white) meat shredded into bite size pieces. One 3-4 pound rotisserie chicken yields about the same amount of shredded meat and is plenty for a large pan of stuffing. I also use store bought broth. Raw chicken problem solved.

So without further adieu, the best dressing ever, step by step:

4 stalks of celery
1 medium-large yellow onion
Sage (see pic)
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp pepper
2 pkg Betty Crocker yellow cornbread mix (do not use a sweet cornbread mix)
Small loaf of bread (I use about 3/4 of a market fresh, thin sliced Italian loaf, but regular white/wheat whatever will work)
32oz chicken broth (low sodium)
5 eggs (large)
Shredded chicken (see note about chicken above)
1 tbsp butter

Step 1:

Preheat oven to 400, grease up cast iron skillet sides and bottom and place in oven for about 10 minutes.


In a medium size mixing bowl, prepare cornbread mix according to packages, with 2 eggs, (1 per package)but instead of regular milk, use buttermilk. Also add pinch of salt.

Take skillet out of oven (I probably don't need to say this, but better safe than sorry: your skillet is going to be hot!! Use potholders). Pour cornbread mix into skillet immediately and cook according to package. Cook time may be slightly longer than package because you use 2. I also use a larger cast iron skillet than the 8" inch skillet that it calls for, again to accommodate for using 2 packages of cornbread mix. Just keep an eye on it and make sure it is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when poked in the center.

When cornbread is done, remove from oven and set aside to let cool.

Step 2:

Cut up bread slices. You can either remove the crust or leave on, personally, I like to leave the crust on. Place bread pieces on baking sheet and toast in oven to medium gold color. I use Italian bread because it makes a good dry, crusty toast that is perfect. Set aside and let cool.

Step 3:

Boil remaining 3 eggs.


Slice celery stalks & chop onion.

When eggs are done boiling (about 20 minutes, give or take) let cool.

Step 4:

Sauté onions and celery in butter until onions are translucent. You do not want to caramelize them.

Step 5:

In LARGE bowl, crumble bread (chunky crumble) and cornbread. I use 3/4 of the cornbread and give the remaining chunk out to munch on as it is friggin fantastic.

Step 6:

Peel and roughly chop eggs. Use whites and yolks. Add chicken, eggs, onions, & celery to large bowl with bread crumbs. Add in pepper & sage. For the sage, I measure with my hand, which I took a picture of. This is the same amount I always use; I know how much by looking at it. I have never actually measured it & I kick myself for not doing it this time, but I would say I use around 1/4 cup, loose. Mix ingredients by hand, trust me, it's much easier than trying to blend them together with a fork, spoon, or some other utensil.

Step 7:

Transfer mix to large Pyrex dish, packing lightly so that it all fits. Pour chicken broth directly over dressing (evenly distribute over top. I just pour from one end of the dish to the other until the broth is gone).

Step 8:

Brown in oven for 25 minutes at 400.

Serve plain or with cranberry sauce or gravy.

I serve with chicken gravy, which I make, but I completely eyeball everything I use for the gravy, so I couldn't even begin to try to post the recipe. I may attempt to measure next time because if you like gravy, this dressing is excellent with chicken gravy, even better with Nanny's homemade giblet gravy that I won't even attempt.

Apologies for not having a picture of the dressing after it was browned in the oven, but as soon as it was done, Thanksgiving feast began & pictures were not the first thing on my mind :).


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