My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dixie Dressing

Probably no other holiday invokes family food traditions more than Thanksgiving Day. Having been raised in The South, I can certainly attest that we had ours. One of the most unique and appealing recipes came from my paternal grandmother in Texas who would make a cornbread dressing chocked with jalapeños, ground sausage, extra spices and lots of green onions -- definitely the epitome of a Texan food item.

Here's a photo of my grandmother with her brood: (I'm on the right.)

For years, I thought this recipe came from my Aunt Dixie since we would often have Thanksgiving dinner at her house. It was only a few years ago that I learned that it was actually my grandmother's recipe. I've often referred to it as "Dixie Dressing" and since it hails from The South, I see little need to change the name.

I've made this creation for folks near and wide, from New York to Chicago to Toronto (where, incidentally, Thanksgiving is observed on the third Monday in October) and everyone really seems to love it.

Like a lot of cooks, I've never really followed a recipe for this. I doubt that my grandmother ever had one written down either. A couple of friends recently asked for a recipe, so as I was making it last night I immortalized my grandmother's creation.

This recipe will probably yield about twenty servings:


I like this recipe for cornbread as it doesn't contain any flour, yielding a really "corny" tasting cornbread. Make it the day before if you like.

4 cups yellow cornmeal
4 cups buttermilk
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients together, pour into a greased cast iron skillet and bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes. 


1 recipe of cornbread, crumbled
8 slices white bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, toasted
2 lbs Jimmy Dean ground sausage (use the hot variety if you really want an extra kick.)
4 cups chopped green onions, (including all the green part)
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 stick butter

Brown the sausage, add it to the cornbread and bread. Saute the vegetables (except the parsley) in butter and add all the vegetables to the mixture.
Then add:

3 Tbs ground sage
1 Tbs dried thyme
1 tsp ground bay leaves
(or: 4 Tbs poultry seasoning)

5-6 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 1/2 cups (12 oz jar) diced pickled jalapeños

Mix everything together in the large pan that you'll bake it in. (I like to don latex gloves and really get in there with my hands.) You should end up with a pretty moist mixture.

Note: You might want to add only 1 cup of diced jalapeños at first, taste it and add more if you want more of a punch. Keep in mind that the heat of the jalapeños and the taste of the spices will increase when you bake it. If you're making it for Texans, tump in the whole jar.
For New Yorkers, try half the amount. You don't want to hear any kvetching.
For Canadians, it really doesn't matter; they're too polite to express an opinion either way. 

Cover with foil, bake at 375 for 30 minutes, uncover and bake for another 30 minutes.

This year, I was asked to make it gluten-free. Since the cornbread doesn't contain any flour, all I had to do was use gluten-free bread. I found some bread made with brown rice flour. It worked fine.

This dressing is really rich and tasty. Don't be alarmed if it appears a little, well -- greasy.
We like it that way in the Land of Dixie.

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