Mom’s Dressing

Mom’s Cornbread Dressing.

“Why is the dressing green?” my husband whispered in my ear. It was his first Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house. “Sage, my dear, the spice of the gods.” I whispered back. One or two big aluminum foil pans of the slightly green, spicy dressing, redolent with black pepper, onions, salty bits of giblets and turkey pan drippings scented my mom’s house every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I don’t know where she learned to make her dressing, she did not talk about cooking with her mom, but Lord it was good. There was no written recipe, but I watched her make this so often and tasted it for her so many times that the making of it is imprinted on my DNA. She would tell us kids, “Come taste this for me and see if it has enough sage.” knowing full well it was perfect; she just wanted to see our eyes roll back in our heads like sharks at a feeding frenzy.

Why is it that every daughter tries to recreate the taste of their mother’s cooking? I think it is one of those rites of passage that define us a family. So for this Texas girl, I try each holiday to recreate that taste, with maybe a little less sage in deference to my husband’s palate. dsc00256His contribution was this knockout smoked turkey breast. But that recipe is for another post. So this year, in my mom’s honor, I pass along the recipe as I remember it; simple in its ingredients, but layered with deep, happy memories of family gatherings. I took pictures and promise I got no kickbacks from the manufacturer’s presented. Substitute as you choose. I try to make the cornbread and the bisquick (mom called this bread pone) the day before the meal. Fresh breads are too moist and will gum up your dressing.



Get a big turkey roaster-size aluminum pan and break up the cornbread and bread pone into crumbs. dsc00248In a small pan, cook the turkey giblets in enough salted water to cover with a roughly chopped onion, a stalk of chopped celery, a bay leaf and some pepper corns. Peel away any tough parts and chop the turkey giblets. Set aside.

In a small skillet, melt a stick of butter and sauté the chopped onion until tender and translucent. dsc00251Pour the cooked onion and butter over the bread crumbs. Add the chopped turkey giblets. If you have roast turkey drippings, pour them in too. Add at least one half container of sage and salt and pepper to taste.


Mix enough of the chicken stock to moisten the mixture to the consistency you like. For me it takes one or two cans of chicken stock. When you mix this dressing, you have to use your hands. You cannot feel the consistency of the dressing through a spoon. Don’t be rough, as Emeril Lagasse says “This is a food of love thing.”



Bake in a 350° oven for 30-45 minutes. There should be just a browned lovely crust on the top. I did not take a picture when it came out of the oven (duh). Too busy eating. I’ll update it with one at Christmas.


2 packages of Bisquick

2 packages of yellow cornbread mix (not sweet)

2 cans of chicken stock

1 stick of butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 or 2 bottles of powdered sage

salt and pepper to taste

Turkey giblets cooked and chopped


Autumn Embers



The smell of wet leaves and wood smoke in the air. The first cold snap. November means the holidays are coming.

My father would have been 87 years old yesterday. He died November 26th of 2010. My mom died November 21st of 2006.

I listen quietly to people lamenting about all the work of Thanksgiving dinner and cleaning house and bothering with this or that relative, and I think, “Just wait. There will come a day when you wish for all that and more.”

Grief has a way of reminding you of all the good times shared. Everyone comes to a point where the loss of family makes certain days bittersweet. I am no different from anyone else.

But this year, as I feel the first chill in the air, I remember it was my mother’s favorite time of year. I embrace the sadness with the joy and open my heart to the experience. I am profoundly thankful for the time I had with my dad and mom, brother, aunts and uncles, grandfathers and grandmothers…all gone now. But as I stir the fire in the fireplace this Thanksgiving, I will bank sweet embers of memory inside my heart against the coming winter.

My sister’s birthday is today and she is coming to spend time with me and my incredible husband this Thanksgiving. I cherish her visit more than I can express. So while I think of my Dad and Mom and all the family next week, I want them to know we are ok. And yes Dad, George will smoke the turkey and yes Mom, we will make the dressing with so much sage it will be slightly green. But it won’t be as good as yours. And we will tell all the family stories. And all our extended families will go and do as they wish.

And I will be thankful I have the chance to laugh, love, and remember one more year.