Do you have certain recipes that HAVE to be cooked at Christmas, and cooked in a certain way only? Well, I’m delighted to welcome author Terry Shames to my blog today with one of her family’s much-loved holiday recipes.
Note: for previous visitors from America, I’ve had to painstakingly translate all the measurements from US standard to British standard. Today, though, I don’t have to – because there aren’t any measurements! Hooray! This is my sort of recipe!
Thanks for sharing your recipe with us, Terry, and I hope your stuffing causes no controversy in the Shames household this Christmas :)
A Non-Recipe Recipe
Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, my family waited cautiously to find out whether we’d get “regular” stuffing, or if my mother would be off on another one of her tangents to shake things up—by which she meant, make her turkey stuffing better. Having heard other families’ stories and attended other family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration, I’m pretty sure my family wasn’t the only one that had a nervous relationship with what goes with the bird.
I’ve heard arguments over whether stuffing should be made with cornbread or bread, whether it should be cooked inside the bird (NO!) or separately, whether to use turkey drippings or chicken broth (too greasy vs tasteless), and what else should go into the stuffing–nuts? Celery? Onions? Sausage? OYSTERS?
My mother was the maker of stuffing, and every holiday we tiptoed around the subject of stuffing, waiting to see if she would simply make it the way she always did (the way we all liked it) or if she would go of on a wild tangent. Kids are so much more conservative about traditions than they pretend to be. We wanted the stuffing she always made. It consisted of the following:
Lots of cornbread (let other families eat that lumpy bread stuffing—we were firmly in the cornbread camp). [I’ll have to translate this for British readers. Cornbread isn’t generally stocked in our supermarkets. I found a recipe here. It’s made with cornmeal – if you can’t find cornmeal, you can use polenta.)
A few biscuits (to soften the cornbread) [British readers: do not use biscuits! Ha ha. We call “cookies” biscuits. That wouldn’t taste good. The American biscuit is a small crusty roll]
Drippings from the turkey
Salt and Pepper
Notice the lack of measurements in this recipe? That’s because there were none. Mother had a particular, yellow bowl she made dressing in. When the bowl was full of cornbread and a few crumbled biscuits mixed together, then she added celery and green onions “until it looked right,” and celery, green onions, salt and pepper, and sage “until it tasted right.” And then when the turkey was done, she added the drippings and melted butter “until it was the right consistency.” While the turkey rested, the dressing got popped into the oven to cook.
Every year it seemed like a miracle that with no recipe it turned out perfect.y. Here’s the problem: no amount of raving would convince mother that the dressing was really good. She had a litany of complaints ready—too much salt, not enough salt, the sage was stale, or the dressing was soggy or too dry. Or the cornbread had been too sweet or too…..you get the message. I never figured out if she was fishing for compliments or if she really thought her efforts didn’t measure up.
Every few years, she’d run something new in on us—a new recipe she had found that sounded good. One year it was rice dressing. It tasted great, but it wasn’t dressing! One year she decided she should use packaged cornbread dressing mix. It was okay, but it wasn’t her dressing. One year she decided it needed oysters. We lived on the Gulf Coast and got terrific oysters. Delicious oysters. Plump, juicy oysters. Oysters that didn’t belong in stuffing. It was good, but IT WASN’T STUFFING.
The funny thing is that now that Mother is not longer around to make the stuffing, my sister and I are able to make it taste pretty good—using her non-recipe.
Terry Shames writes the best-selling Samuel Craddock mystery series, set in the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. Her first novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill (July 2013) was a finalist for the Left Coast Crime award for best mystery of 2013, the Strand Magazine Critics Award, and a Macavity Award for Best First Novel of 2013. MysteryPeople named it one of the five top debut mysteries of 2013.
The Last Death of Jack Harbin (January 2013) was named one of the top five mysteries of 2013 by Library Journal. Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek came out October, 2014. A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge comes out in April, 2015.
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Terry, I so agree with you about children always wanting the same traditions every year! I love your recipe for stuffing, and will give it a try some day – but not on Christmas Day, though, because we have our own tradition in our house, which we must stick to! I always make Delia Smith’s sage and onion stuffing (Delia is a famous English chef), which is made with breadcrumbs, and I cook it INSIDE the bird! :)
Do you have any recipes you have to make in a certain way each Christmas? And stuffing inside or outside the bird – where do you stand??
If you’ve enjoyed Terry’s post, or have any questions or comments at all, please let us know – we’d love to hear from you!