By Sarah Gagliardo
I had Thanksgiving every single year, except one, at my Mimi’s house. She was my Mom’s mother, and a wonderful southern cook. The only year we didn’t have our Southern Thanksgiving, we had it with my Father’s family and I was horrified. The large Italian side of the family stuffed the bird with Italian sausage, served lasagna, and there wasn’t any dressin’! (For those of you who don’t know, dressin’ is the southern version of stuffing.)
Being the southern bell I am, and let’s face it—clearly spoiled, I miss my Mimi’s Thanksgiving! The butterball turkey, the home-grown green beans, the fresh biscuits, and the mashed potatoes. Even when no one else wanted them, my Mimi would always make it for me. Having lasagna and stuffing with sausage in it just wasn’t the same.
Mimi tried to teach me many things in the kitchen, including her biscuits, but this is the only recipe I could get right. Mom and I never could make biscuits…although we tried many times, but we can cook the dressin’, and it tastes pretty close to what the original recipe was.
My Mimi passed away a few years ago, but this is one recipe that remains in our family. We still cook this every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I will make it every year for my family when I have them, and I’ve made it every year I haven’t lived at home. I guess in my own way, cooking and sharing this recipe is my way of keeping her with me, especially around the holidays. I know that her passing away left a huge hole in the family, but it’s nice to cook this every year, and have that little bit of her in the house.
- 1 bag of corn bread crumbs (You can buy this at the store, especially around the holidays, or mix in bread crumbs from the year…missing with cornbread crumbles)
- 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock (this can be vegetarian friendly)
- 3-4 large stocks of celery, chopping finely
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- Salt and Pepper (just a teaspoon of each)
- Also: Vegetable oil for frying
Preheat oven on 375 degrees F, and grease a 9”x13” casserole dish. Combine corn bread crumbs, celery, onion and salt and pepper in a bowl, and slowly add stock until the whole mixture is combined and formable. You may not use all of the stock, or you may need a bit more. You don’t want it mushy, but moist. Take ball of mixture and transfer into the casserole dish, pressing it into the corners and flat across. Then bake until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
Once cool, add ¼ inch of oil to a pan (roughly), and bring to a medium high heat. With the baked dressing, cut down the middle lengthwise, then cut into 1/4” strips. Remove strips and put about 3 or 4 in your frying pan, flipping once the bottom begins to turn a golden brown. Once the other side has properly browned, remove and place on a wire wrack to cool, over some paper towels (makes clean up a bit easier!). Add oil as needed. Baked stuffing, before frying, is freezable.
I guarantee this will be a huge hit at your Thanksgiving, and your family will enjoy it for years to come. I know mine does. Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!