Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cooking Up Holiday Spirit

This week's cookbook is Thanksgiving 101 by Rick Rodgers

Mason-Dixon Corn Bread Dressing 101

Moist, golden brown corn bread dressing has as many variations as there are Southern cooks. This basic corn bread dressing recipe uses two equally popular Southern ingredients, ham and pecans.

-This dressing is best made with homemade corn bread. Southern Corn Bread has the proper firm texture. While corn bread stuffing mix is an acceptable substitute, don't use corn bread baked from packaged mixes--these are usually very sweet and make okay muffins but lousy dressing.

-Bake the corn bread a day or two ahead, crumble it, and let it stand at room temperature to dry out. The corn bread can also be dried in the oven. Crumble the corn bread onto baking sheets and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally, until dried out but not toasted, 20 to 30 minutes.

-As with Bread Stuffing 101, use homemade turkey stock for the best flavor, and be flexible about the amount of stock used to moisten the stuffing. Be sure the stock is cold (or at least cooled to lukewarm), as hot stock could scramble the eggs.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces smoked ham, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 medium celery ribs with leaves, chopped
1 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
10 cups coarsely crumbled Southern Corn Bread, dried overnight or in the oven
1 cup toasted and coarsely chopped pecans
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, preferably homemade
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
2 1/2 cups homemade turkey stock or canned reduced-sodium chicken broth, or as needed

1. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the ham and celery and cook until the celery softens, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.

2. Scrape the ham, vegetables, and butter into large bowl. Stir in the corn bread, pecans, eggs, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir in enough of the stock to moisten the stuffing, about 2 cups. Use to stuff the bird, or place in a buttered baking dish, drizzle with an additional 1/2 cup stock, cover, and bake as a side dish.

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