Thanksgiving has always been an important holiday to me. First because it’s a day to reflect on the scores of reasons we have to be thankful and to acknowledge those we are thankful for. Thanksgiving isn’t the only day of reflection in this regard but it’s a big day for that. I also love it because family and friends are together and we get to eat amazing food. There are foods that are traditional in my family and I love to make them the way we always have. There are other foods I experiment with. My Mother was an amazing cook and I have her recipes.
Although she doesn’t cook much any more she can still tell me what I do wrong with her recipes. I think last year was the last time for an Ellen made Crumble Top Apple Pie. This year I made two. One I took on Thanksgiving day up to Ojai where we had a beautiful celebration with Bill and Sandy and Sandy’s sister Andrea and their families and friends and one for Saturday when I cooked for our family and a few friends.
My mother’s stuffing is unmatched. It is by far, hands-down, the best stuffing I have ever eaten. It is spectacular. You will never make another once you make and eat this one. It is beautiful made as a vegetarian side-dish or stuffed in the bird or as a side-dish with chicken stock. It’s just delicious.
Start with Cornbread a week or so ahead of time.
Cornbread for use in Stuffing
(from Ellen Neiman)
Preheat oven to 425°
2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In another bow, whisk together the milk, eggs and butter. Add the milk mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir until combined. Pour the batter into two greased 8-inch square baking pans and bake at 425° for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is pale golden and a tester comes out clean. Let the cornbread cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then invert it onto a rack and let it cool completely.
Let the cornbread sit out and dry out for days.
Crumble the cornbread coarsely into two cookie or jelly-roll pans that have sides so the bread won’t fall out when you stir it around. You can have some small or medium sized irregular pieces when you crumble the cornbread. You don’t want all crumbs because the stuffing will be like pudding.
Toast the coarsely crumbled bread for 30 to 35 minutes in a pre-heated 325° oven until it is dry and deep golden, stirring occasionally. Be sure to check it often because all of a sudden the back of the pan will burn, etc. Transfer the dried cornbread to a gigantic bowl.
4 cups chopped onion
3 cups chopped celery
1 stick of butter, plus
1 bag of cranberries, chopped very coarsely (like in half)
1 to 2 cups toasted pecan halves
Lots of mushrooms, thickly sliced or halved if small.
1 cup fresh herbs (combo thyme, savory, sage, marjoram, a little rosemary, a little oregano)
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 or 2 chopped shallots (optional – they get lost so I often don’t use them)
Saute the onion and celery and shallots of using them, in your largest skillet with the stick of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Saute over a moderately low heat, stirring until the vegetables are softened then transfer to the bowl with the cornbread.
Saute the sliced mushrooms in a little olive oil.
Add to the bowl with the cornbread/onion/celery mixture, the cranberries, the pecans, the mushrooms, the herbs, the parsley.
If it’s too dry then add melted butter and chicken or vegetable or mushroom stock until it just holds together. You want to be able to squeeze it together but you don’t want any juice to come out when you squeeze.
Stuff the turkey cavity and the neck.
Put the rest of the stuffing into a casserole dish and cover and cook at 350° for 30 minutes.