Bramell, Party of Five: Our Family Secret

Friday, October 19, 2012

Our Family Secret

This week, I'm participating in the Blogtober Fest Challenge sponsored by Arkansas Women Bloggers. Today is the last day of the challenge.  The topic is Favorite Fall Recipes.

I live in the South, and come from a family of good cooks and good eaters.  That's really no secret--have you seen me? Our way of doing big family gatherings is that everyone pitches in to bring a dish. Really, this is cool because that way nobody gets stuck doing all the work--we can have up to 20 people at any time. I, however, have been given a pass on the cooking lately since we are always traveling across the state with three kids in tow...but I digress.

Our #1 most popular family dish is my Nanny's cornbread dressing. Now, don't get this confused with stuffing; this is most certainly not coming out of a turkey's butt. Nanny's dressing is not just made for traditional Thanksgiving dinner; we have it during regular Saturday lunches in the middle of May. We can be cooking steaks on the grill and someone will make darn sure that Nanny is bringing some dressing! It's really kind of odd.  But here's the problem: there is no recipe, and nobody can make it like her.

The first Christmas after the twins were born, we decided it was wise to stay home instead of hauling it across the state (for obvious reasons). My sister and her husband joined us here instead. Immediately, we realized that Nanny would not be here to make the dressing and neither would my mom. Well, my sister did not get the cooking gene, and I do alright, so I said I'd give it a shot.  I emailed my mom for some directions. I will share with you what I got in return (I swear, I am copying this exactly):

"How to make dressing....

I'm like Nanny in that I don't measure b/c that's the way she taught me. THE MAIN SECRET IS THIS--DO NOT OVER STIR AFTER YOU ADD THE BROTH OR IT WILL BE GUMMY.

Start with 1 cup of buttermilk and beat in 2 eggs by hand. Add corn meal mix, a little at a time, until it is still pourable...not real thin, but not too thick or it will be heavy when cooked. If you get too much cornmeal, add a little more buttermilk until you get the consistency you want. Bake until it's nice and brown on bottom. There are also directions for making cornbread on the cornmeal package, if you prefer precise measurements. (duh!)

Finely chop celery (about a cup or so) and an onion. Boil these in chicken broth until almost clear and tender. Meanwhile, crumble the cornbread into chunks in your baking dish. Mash 2 boiled eggs with a fork until very fine and add to cornbread. When celery and onion are done, dip out with slotted spoon and mix into cornbread. Sprinkle on the sage and some black pepper. Mix gently with fork or your hands. Once combined, pour on the turkey broth, a little at a time. Again, you can stir gently with a fork but be careful not to do too much...just until combined.

Here is where you taste a little to see if it needs more sage, pepper or if it needs salt. The broth is usually salty enough if you salt your turkey well.  Shake the pan back and forth to gauge how much broth is in it. You will most likely need to add some of the chicken broth that you used to cook the celery and onion.

It should be moist enough to move back and forth but not be soupy. If you get too much, you can dip some out and you will need to cook longer to dry it up. Normally, it takes about 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Cook until it's brown on top. Save any leftover broth in case you need to add a little when you warm up the leftovers (only if it's on the dry side).

Good luck! Let me know how it turns out......"

I bet you are wondering how it turned out. Would these directions work for you??  Well, I gave it my best shot. Because she warned me 62 times, I was so paranoid about putting in TOO MUCH broth that I didn't put enough! It turned out fairly well, but on the dry and crumbly side. Nobody complained, but only because they knew better. A sleep-deprived, cranky lady cooking her first solo Christmas dinner....just shut up and eat it!


  1. Sounds good! I have been there too!

  2. I have finally mastered my Momma's dressing recipe. Now its become my permanent job at Thanksgiving. But it makes my house smell sooooo good I don't mind:))

  3. Your Nanny's dressing sounds a LOT like my maternal grandmother's in flavor (my mom has a recipe that she uses to make grandmother died in 1960). It's our way of having her with us every holiday. I love that y'all have this all year!

  4. We come to family gathers with rubbermaid "to go" containers in hand! Nanny makes two pans so we all enough to take home for leftovers! Yummy! It's almost that time again!!! ;)

  5. No one could possibly replicate my Nonnie's dressing except for, possibly, my Aunt Sue. I have come close using Payla Deen's Southern Cornbread Dressing recipe as a guide. Like you, we prefer a wet dressing. It's one that must be spooned out rather than served in squares. I start saving my leftover cornbread along about October so that I have that already done. I don't use any other bread other than that. Nor do I stuff anything except myself. You must have done fairly well considering the directions:)

  6. Just re-read this in 2015. I still laughed out loud. How's the dressing turning out these days?


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