Having red dirt in the veins, this daughter of Oklahoma prefers turkey accompanied by cornbread dressing.
Great cornbread dressing is going to start with great cornbread. Left over or baked just for making the dressing, the cornbread is torn or crumbled into chunks and toasted in the oven. That way it absorbs the maximum amount of flavor from the turkey pan juices.
Cornbread was and still is a staple at our dinner table. My husband and I are years past thinking we need to saturate our cornbread with butter to enjoy its great texture and crunchy crust to accompany a variety of meals. What I really enjoy is making the cornbread with cornmeal ground right here in Oklahoma. It is an extra little blessing to appreciate at Thanksgiving.
I love to use Made in Oklahoma cornmeal when breading fish, thick slices of green tomatoes or making a simple pan of cornbread. We have two mills in Oklahoma that supply us with excellent fresh cornmeal. Shawnee Mills has been grinding corn and wheat for more than a hundred years. Follow Interstate 40 westward toward Hydro and you'll find Stone Stack Mill, a much smaller operation but dedicated to processing all Oklahoma-grown grains.
My mother used the recipe on the side of the cornmeal container, incorporating bacon fat in lieu of the oil called for in the recipe. Baked in the same well-seasoned cast iron skillet used to fry the morning bacon, her cornbread had that lovely hint of smokiness. This little extra bit of added flavor also produced an awesome cornbread dressing with the turkey.
We know bacon just has a special way of making things better, and it only takes one or two pieces sauteed with the celery and onion to impart so much flavor into the finished dressing.
Adding Made in Oklahoma bacon to the skillet could make the dressing even better. You'll find Bar S Bacon in groceries around the state or look for Twin Foods Granny's Good Ol' Fashion Bacon Drippings, providing consistent, high-quality, smoky-flavored bacon grease in every box.
There are so many things you can include in the dressing. Mother sometimes added some toasted pecans from our farm, and those are in season now and available locally through producers across the state. Be sure and pick up a supply for holiday baking and to store for use through the rest of the year. There's not much to equal fresh-gathered Oklahoma pecans and, besides, you'll need some for that pecan pie.
Over the years we've included corn frozen from the summer's harvest, sliced mushrooms from J-M Fresh produced in Miami, OK, oysters (not local unless you have a hankering to use mountain oysters, which I would not recommend at this time) or some crumpled sausage. There are several Oklahoma sources for sausage: J.C. Potter's of Madill, Blue and Gold out of Jones and Schwab's in Oklahoma City.
I make the cornbread the day before Thanksgiving when I can, but I put the dressing together the same day I cook the turkey. This gives me the chance to stir in that all important ingredient of turkey pan drippings to the dressing before baking. One thing you should do if you haven't already is include fresh poultry seasoning. This finely ground mixture of herbs really loses its flavor over the year between holidays.
The great thing about making homemade dressing is you can add your special touch. I like to include a few fresh sage leaves from my garden or simply arrange them on top of the dressing in the baking dish. They also make a great little aromatic garnish. Of course, dressing wouldn't be complete without plenty of chopped fresh parsley. I hope you can include some Made in Oklahoma ingredients in your Thanksgiving and holiday cooking.
I've also added instructions for making dressing muffins and an Oklahomafied version of pumpkin pie.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Oklahoma Cornbread Dressing
This good-for-you-good-for-Oklahoma dressing uses Shawnee's Best Cornmeal to first make a recipe for Homestead Cornbread found on the back of Shawnee's Best Cornmeal packages. Dress up the dressing with additions of your choice if you like: J-M Fresh mushrooms (sliced and sauteed in butter), J.C. Potter's, Schwab's or Blue and Gold Sausage, Bar S Bacon, or Toasted Oklahoma Pecans. This recipe makes 1 (9x13-inch) pan or deeper (8- or 9-inch) round pan.
1 recipe Shawnee's Best Homestead Cornbread or your own favorite
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper (optional)
1/3 cup Hiland, Braum's or Wagon Creek Butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 1/4 to 2 cups chicken or turkey stock (can be in combination)
• Bake cornbread, then crumble into 2-quart bowl. Alternatively, cook and cut or crumble, cornbread and spread on baking sheet, then dry in 300-degree oven for 30 minutes. (This technique allows crumbs to take more flavor-enhancing liquids from stock or pan drippings.)
• Melt butter and saute onion and celery in a small skillet and set aside.
• In a separate bowl, combine beaten eggs, pepper and poultry seasoning, then add to the crumpled or toasted cornbread. Fold in onions and celery.
• Add stock incorporating into mixture. Pour into pan or baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until internal temperature of dressing reaches 165 degrees.
SOURCE: Adapted from Shawnee Milling Company in “Tastefully Oklahoma” published by the Made in Oklahoma Coalition in 2007
Cook's notes: The more juices from cooking turkey or chicken, the better the dressing. Add stock to the roasting pan during last of cooking turkey to make the most of pan juices and incorporate pan drippings into the stock to be used in dressing. Roast carrots, celery and onions around the turkey to enhance the flavor and amount of liquids for dressing and pan gravy.
Cornbread Dressing Muffins
Yields 18 standard-size muffins
Two packages Shawnee Mills Cornbread Mix
1 pound J.C. Potter Sage Sausage
1 large onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
3 cups soft breadcrumbs (from a loaf of French bread or similar white bread)
2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
3 1/2 to four cups chicken broth
• Prepare Shawnee Mills Cornbread Mix according to package directions, making two pans of cornbread. Let cool, then in a large bowl, stir and tear the cornbread into crumbs.
• In a large saute pan, cook sausage, onion and celery over medium heat, stirring to break up sausage. Cook until sausage is browned, then drain.
• Combine cornbread crumbs, white breadcrumbs, sausage mixture, sage, pepper and eggs. Stir to combine. Add chicken broth, stirring until the mixture is uniformly wet but not soupy.
• Take mounds of dressing, either using your hands or a large ice cream scoop, making balls to fit into a greased standard 12-cup muffin pan. Each scoop should generously fit into the muffin cups.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let sit in pan for 10 minutes.
• Remove each muffin from pan, using a spoon or the tip of a knife to gently remove each. Let them cool on a cooling rack.
SOURCE: Made in Oklahoma Coalition
Oklahoma Honey-Sweet Pumpkin Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
1 unbaked 9-inch Oklahoma Pastry shell
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin or 2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey, warmed
3 large eggs, beaten
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated skim milk or 1 cup whipping cream with 1/2 cup milk
• Prepare pastry and chill thoroughly. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position.
• In a medium-size bowl, mix pumpkin puree, spices, sugar and honey. Add beaten eggs and milk or milk and cream combination. Mix well. Pour filling mixture into chilled pie shell.
• Bake for 15 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Make a foil collar to protect outer rim of crust from over-browning if necessary while filling bakes. (Tear off a sufficient length of foil, about 2 1/2 feet. Fold in half lengthwise and “lasso” it around the edge of the pie quickly after the first 15 minutes of baking.) Bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes until knife or toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
• For creamy version: Substitute 1/2 cup Wagon Creek yogurt cheese or thick Greek-style plain yogurt with 1 cup milk in place of the evaporated skim milk.
• Souffle version: Separate eggs. Eliminate honey and use 3/4 cup sugar. Add yolks to pumpkin mixture. Eliminate all milk and use 1 cup whipping cream. Beat egg whites until stiff, and fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour into pie shell and bake in 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 375, and bake pie an additional 30 to 35 minutes without adding foil collar. Check pie for doneness. When done, turn off oven and open door to allow pie to cool slowly.
• Cook's note: Don't worry if the pie filling cracks, you can cover any variation with a dollop of whipped cream at serving time. Cracks and variations on perfection are confirmation that your pie is homemade with love and attention.
Source: Adapted from the Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe