July 14, 2009
christmas in july
there is something i love about driving - in the dark - with the radio low and just talking to whoever is sitting there. sunday night after a good day at the lake, my brother and i were reminiscing (as usual) about cooking and that always leads to talking about my mom. i know that people say that their mom makes the best dressing in the world....but i swear, my mother did. she did. ask anyone. i watched and helped for many years. so when my brother said, "it's been almost two years and it's hard to believe i'll never have her dressing again."
i took that as a challenge. now it may not match mother's...but i watched enough that i thought i could come pretty close. if you tackle this dish - please put aside three to four hours - it's just that labor intensive. and another thing - i rarely measure so a lot of this is to taste.
it starts by doing three things almost simultaneously. put your chicken on to boil with water and a palmful of salt and black pepper to taste. i highly recommend a whole bird (instant sandra lee tip: you can use a rotiserre chicken from the deli if you're in a hurry) but all i had on had on hand was breasts so i supplemented with boneless, skinless thighs. then put on two to three eggs to boil (while you're boiling, you might as well boil some extra for some egg salad - always a yummy lunch treat). and then, yes, the holy trinity of southern cooking - bell pepper, celery and onion. chop each of the following to a fine chop: a bell pepper, onion (medium-sih) and three stalks celery.
after chopping - add 1/4 cup oil to an oven proof pan (if you have cast iron - fantastic!) saute the pepper, onion and celery until the veggies are soft. check your eggs (my trick to perfect eggs - place eggs in cold water, bring to a boil and boil for five minutes and then turn the heat off and let them sit another five to ten minutes. perfect every time.)
in a separate bowl - prepare cornbread according to package directions (sans oil) - i love while lily cornbread mix but i'm not sure if that's a regional brand or not. stir in the cooked veggies (with the oil) and a good palmful of poultry seasoning. now, if you have a herb garden you can use fresh sage, thyme and rosemary (half the seasoning because fresh has more flavor than dried). make sure the herbs are finely minced.
while cornbread is cooking, shred cooked chicken and set aside. peel boiled eggs and set aside. after cornbread is done, turn into a large bowl - and i do mean large as you will need room to mix. now, comes my mother's secret ingredients - cream of chicken soup and a raw egg. crumble the cornbread and stir together with the chicken. mix in the soup (i was out of chicken so cream of mushroom works well too) and then add chicken broth until mixture is fairly soupy. dice the boiled eggs and stir in. turn the entire mixture into a large roasting pan. bake at 350 for about an hour - check frequently to make sure it doesn't dry out - you can add extra chicken broth throughout the baking to ensure the dressing is moist.
my brother said it was pretty darn close. yay! i needed a bit more seasoning i think and maybe i should have used some sage in addition to just the poultry seasoning mix (which is sage, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg and maybe one other herb.)
now...just so i could work harder? i decided to try a cream cheese poundcake that i got during the recipe exchange. i tweaked it a tad, blending it together with another basic poundcake recipe i had - the main difference is that i added more flavoring (hers called for vanilla only and i added some lemon extra. i used all butter - susan used one-half cup butter and one cup margarine.) at the last minute, i decided to go with the cake flour instead of the all purpose/baking power combo as shown in the photograph of ingredients.
Cream Cheese Pound Cake by Susan Jones
1 ½ cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
3 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Combine first 3 ingredients, creaming well: gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour to creamed mixture stirring until combined. Stir in vanilla and lemon extracts. Pour batter into a well greased 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 1 hour 45 minutes at 325 degrees or until cake tests done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool completely. Yield: one 10-inch cake.
excuse the slice....you know I had to do quality control!! it's light, yummy and the perfect foundation for fresh sliced fruit and a dallop of whipped cream.