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A Thanksgiving dish you can’t live without?

AJC staff

AJC staff

Time to break out the hammer and nail and add a few notches to your belts, because the most face-stuffing season of the year is upon us once again.

Thanksgiving is, and has been, my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. And not because, as my Mom used to always say, it is one of the only holidays that centers around simply being with your family rather than buying “stuff” for them. No, it is because of the food.

While my wife probably isn’t looking forward to the annual 7-10 lbs. of base layer blubber that I usually pick up over the next 45 days, I sure am. And the opening ceremonies are less than a week away.

The Thanksgiving meal is one that is nearly always steeped in tradition, and it seems like everyone I know has some sort of Thanksgiving tradition that, when “messed with”, sets off a sometimes violent reaction. And this usually comes down to one or more of the dishes served each year.

I vividly remember the year that my brother-in-law volunteered to contribute the sweet potato casserole. I don’t think my sister has really forgiven him yet for putting marshmallows on top and “messing with” her one dish. It amounted to blasphemy – a dish that, when omitted or done “wrong”, becomes the only thing you remember about that Thanksgiving.

Given my love of fried turkeys – in fact, I’ve got one shot up with Cajun butter in the fridge right now I’m prepping for a potluck this weekend – you’d think that it is the bird that I revere most each November, but you’d be wrong. While I love a well-made turkey, you can swap it out with a turducken, goose, ham, whatever you want….but don’t @#%! with the dressing, you hear me?

Unless there is a pan of my grandmother’s cornbread dressing – heavy with sage, butter, pulled chicken bits, and more butter – then it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving to me. I’ve had many other great dressings, but unless I get a taste of the one I grew up on, it leaves a hole in my holiday. And as if she needed to remind me how much she loves me, my mom always manages to make a few extra pans for me to take home and live off of until Christmas.

I know that I’m not alone on this, and I’ve seen some passionate responses from friends and family on the same issue, but usually not over the same dish.

What is your “one dish” this Thanksgiving? What is the one dish that, if forgotten, substituted, or botched, will be the rock stuck in the shoe of this year’s feast, bugging you the whole time? What is that one dish that, if missing, will ruin Thanksgiving?

- By Jon Watson, Food and More blog

34 comments Add your comment

Butterball

November 16th, 2012
7:34 am

My wife’s cornbread dressing, made from a family recipe handed down from my Grandmother. It is the best!!!

scottm

November 16th, 2012
7:49 am

creamed onions (real heavy cream, butter and boiler onions)….

Anton Chigurh

November 16th, 2012
7:53 am

Roast turkey, Justin Wilson style. Rub with olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper. That’s it. Perfection.

Edward

November 16th, 2012
8:21 am

Moist roasted turkey, my Aunt Ramona’s dressing, and my Mom’s yeast rolls. I can make them all myself, but it is just not the same.

Rodney

November 16th, 2012
8:39 am

Hmm … just one? I can only pick one?

Ok – here’s my one: my 88 year old Grandmother’s pecan pie. Chopped pecans, sugarcane (not Karo or otherwise) syrup. It just says “home” and “I love you” with each bite. Of course, this pie makes an appearance throughout the year, but it is always a Holiday staple. (I may have romanticized it just a bit but honestly, it’s a darn good pie!)

Honorable mentions (I can’t let them go unmentioned): my sister’s cornbread dressing and my Mom’s turnips (from her garden – turnips aren’t traditional but they *are* in my family).

Lizzy

November 16th, 2012
9:00 am

The turkey and dressing w/gravy are front and center for most of us but what makes them that much more tasty is to have really good fresh green beans snuggled next to them on the plate along with cranberry sauce (canned or home made are fine) to have that sweet tangy contrast-those flavors are matches of perfection. My mom always had a”relish tray” which consisted of celery stalks plain and stuffed with pimento cheese and/or cream cheese & chopped olives, green and black olives and.pickled peaches straight from the jar (packed in heavy syrup). Any veggies, i.e. carrots, bell peppers could be added but they would only be playing second fiddle to the celery sticks, olives and pickled peaches!

CobbNative

November 16th, 2012
9:05 am

My grandma’s yellow squash casserole! It exudes love, warmth and happiness. Lots and lots of butter! She would always make me an extra pan because she knew how much I loved it. Sadly, my Granny passed away this past May so I won’t get to experience that lovely dish the way she made it. My aunt knows the recipe by heart but as you all know, it’s never the same whenthe person you share that memory with isn’t the one making the dish!

daBookCook

November 16th, 2012
9:09 am

Green Bean casserole

THE_TomH

November 16th, 2012
9:10 am

Since attending school in Austria for a year, to honor the Salzkammergut, I have added spaetzle to my Thanksgiving menu, with a green peppercorn sauce. It’s great with brined turkey.

Mark

November 16th, 2012
10:26 am

Agreed, it’s the dressing, in our case the Cornbread Pecan dressing from the original Silver Palate cookbook. 22 consecutive Thanksgivings beginning when we were dating.

Kar

November 16th, 2012
10:50 am

The Pennsylvanian Dutch in me demands Cope’s Corn. A savory custard made with milk, cream, eggs and a dried sweet corn. Pure comfort food.

Jere

November 16th, 2012
10:54 am

it’s the dressing at our house too but our’s has oysters in it. it’s not Thanksgiving without it

Grasshopper

November 16th, 2012
11:28 am

Well the cornbread dressing (made with some of the turkey drippings and egg-heavy cornbread so that it is not crumbly) of course.

But it would also not be Thanksgiving without the baked brie en croute. I usually make that but my niece wants to do it this year so I happily pass that tradition down.

Oh, and about 12 bottles of wine…for about 15 people. Urp.

SP

November 16th, 2012
11:33 am

Minced cranberries with walnuts and orange juice. No way is it Thanksgiving without cranberries!

Bhorsoft

November 16th, 2012
11:52 am

Punkin’ Pie with real whipped cream on it (lots of it)!

Bhorsoft

November 16th, 2012
11:53 am

Oh, and to get ahead of the holidays, Christmas ain’t Christmas without some eggnog.

JSR

November 16th, 2012
11:59 am

It’s my momma’s dressing for me too. She makes a pan each of cornbread and biscuits (Shirley Corriher’s recipe), leaves them out overnight, and crumbles them up. She makes her own stock with turkey and chicken pieces; chops up celery and onion; seasons with sage, S&P; adds in a whopping ton of oysters; mixes in a couple of beaten eggs; bakes it all up, and voila! My childhood on a plate. Pour on the giblet gravy, add a nice pile of cranberry sauce next door, and mmmmm. Heaven. I suppose there’s some turkey there, but I never remember it, or the umpteen other dishes. It’s all about the dressing.

dsm

November 16th, 2012
12:19 pm

For me,it’s the dresing. Funny thing, could not stand it growing up. Sad to have missed out on enjoying it all these years. Here’s my current struggle, I cannot find a good giblet gravy recipe like we had growing up. No one left in my family to share now that I plan to cook on my own. Ours always had a little dressing added to thicken, but I cannot find a recipe made that way. Anyone else have gravy made that way?

Shockadow

November 16th, 2012
12:42 pm

Senator Russell’s Sweet Potato Souffle. I would get naked & roll around in it i love it so much.

William

November 16th, 2012
1:02 pm

mashed potatos and i mix them with everything.

muffin

November 16th, 2012
1:10 pm

I get a stomach ache just thinking about Thanksgiving but I do love my southern mother’s cornbread dressing. It’s usually the best thing on the plate other than her biscuits.

sharon

November 16th, 2012
1:10 pm

I’m not ashamed to say it…..got to have chitterlings

donkey200

November 16th, 2012
1:40 pm

Smashed potatoes/parsnips w/lots of butter and sourcream and Turkey giblet gravy. My mom browns the flour first. Yum! Oh, and my smoked oyster dressing.

Kathy

November 16th, 2012
3:55 pm

Homemade giblet gravy!!

Ganners

November 16th, 2012
4:08 pm

I love fresh cranberry sauce made with oranges and cloves. Yeah, I love stuffing too.

SAWB

November 16th, 2012
11:55 pm

My Grandmother and then my Mother made the best cornbread dressing, but alas Grandma has passed and Mom has Alzheimer’s. So, no one really knows exactly how to make dressing just like they did. Man I would give a big chunk of cash right now for just one more plate or maybe just one more afternoon with the two of them.

I guess really it’s not so much about the food, but the people and good times it reminds us of. I think some folks just don’t get that and see a meal as just sustenance. Oh well didn’t mean to be too much of a bummer.

Oh, p.s.: I was just informed today that because my nieces don’t like turkey we or having Honey Baked Ham instead. Also, no dressing, but my Brother is making mac & cheese. Good Lord – I might just have to hit the Colonnade…

Art

November 17th, 2012
11:08 am

For me, it’s always been that sandwich I make the next day with soft white bread, sliced turkey breast, sausage dressing, cranberry chutney and Duke’s mayo. I look forward to that sandwich all year long.

Art

November 17th, 2012
11:12 am

@Grasshopper, I want to party with you!! Urp!

ex chef

November 17th, 2012
11:45 am

I know that I’m going to get booed for this, but my favorite thing (actually, the ONLY thin that I really like) is bread stuffing that has been cooked in the bird.

jew jew-jam

November 17th, 2012
8:05 pm

The one thing I would add is

a little mitt tea party will be missed this year

Art

November 18th, 2012
8:52 am

@ex chef, there are a lot people out there who believe that the only true stuffing is the kind that is cooked in the bird. For many years, I did both kinds. Lately I’ve taken to just doing the out-of-the-bird kind because I can make a lot more and also because I can fill the bird with various aromatics like oranges, celery, apples and the like. So no booo from me…

Grasshopper

November 19th, 2012
9:08 am

Well come on Art!

Turns out there will only be 9 of us this year, but there will probably still be 12 bottles of wine. So just bring your favorite hangover cure and that white bread – and some Tupperware.

Mar -Atl Foodie

November 19th, 2012
1:37 pm

We Southerners like our cornbread dressing. Stuffing is in the bird and dressing is outside. Both are wonderful as long as they aren’t the stupid dry cubes you see in food displays for turkey sides. Real home-made pies, moist bird, they dressing, sweet potatoes in any form, green beans gravy and all of the homemade rolls. I love the comments, and it truly is about the people who sit at your table and those who have gone before.

ex chef

November 22nd, 2012
4:23 am

@ art thanks for not booing me. I have also spatchcocked birds and roasted them on top of the bread stuffing. it’s fantastic because the turkey juices get to the stuffing/dressing, plus you get way more turkey drenched stuffing and you don’t have to worry about it being the proper temp. on the other hand the stuffing is the only thanksgiving food that I really like. for me the turkey is just there to season the stuffing, but I’m odd. happy thanksgiving all!