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How to cook Grandma's Thanksgiving Turkey Stuffing


a report from the Phantom's Kitchen:

Thanksgiving means Turkey Dinner. The only controversy surrounding this holiday, aside from who will win the football pool, is the Great Turkey Stuffing or Dressing Dilemma. Whose grandmother really made the best dressing for the bird? Well, I've got the answer:  my grandmother won! No question about it.
My grandmother, Isabelle Curragh McDougal, was born in Belfast, Ireland and immigrated to America in 1905. She was in her fifties when I was born, and I lived with her until I was nearly twelve years old. My mother told me that when I first began talking, I spoke with an Irish brogue, just like Gram. I have hundreds of great memories of her, but the standout is her cooking. She loved to entertain and that always meant food. Her Thanksgiving Dinner was a thing to behold. So with great affection, I will share her recipe with you.
Here's Grandma. Her Thanksgiving Dinner was a thing to behold. So with great affection, I will share her recipe with you


First a word about whether it is stuffing or dressing. If you stuff it inside the bird to cook it, it is stuffing, otherwise, it is dressing. I call it dressing because I do not stuff the turkey. The Thanksgiving police have decided that that's no longer a good idea. My grandmother, however, always stuffed the bird. You gotta give her credit for living on the edge. 

I have adapted her recipe somewhat. I don't make my own bread so I substitute store-bought, sliced French bread, which comes very close to her delicious home-made bread. I also substitute margarine (I Can't Believe it's not Butter) for the cup of the real thing that she always used. Let your conscience be your guide. Buy the bread a few days before you make the dressing. (By the way, you can make up the dressing on Thanksgiving morning. It's not too difficult. It might sound complicated if you've never made dressing before, but once you've done it a couple of times, it's truly a no-brainer.)

Grandma McDougal's Turkey Dressing

Ingredients:

1 loaf sliced French bread
Turkey giblets
1 cup margarine
an onion, a celery stock & bay leaves for the turkey broth

Small bunch of celery
Large onion
Bunch of fresh parsley
2 eggs, beaten
salt, pepper, sage or poultry seasoning, to taste

Step l: Take the store-bought sliced French bread out of the plastic wrapper and set it out in the air at least one day before you are going to use it. It needs to dry out a little. The kitchen will have a yeasty smell as the bread dries -- most delicious.

Step 2: Early in the morning of Thanksgiving Day pull out the giblets (that's the heart, the liver, and that other yucky item, the gizzard) from the turkey. Place them in a large pan of water and simmer them until they are tender with a sliced onion, a stock of celery, a couple of bay leaves and a little salt, approximately one hour. (This makes the kitchen smell wonderful.) Remove giblets and strain the broth into a jar. Discard the veggies. You should have at least a quart of stock left after straining it.

Step 3: Drag out the Cuisinart (or a meat grinder if you have one. That's what Grandma used.), and in batches, process the following, but don't let the pieces get too small. If they liquefy, start over.

A couple stocks of celery
One large onion
A small bunch of parsley

Melt a cup of margarine in a sauté pan and cook the above ingredients until soft, but don't let them get browned. (Approximately 5 minutes.)

Step 4: Food Process the bread and the giblets and dump them into a large mixing bowl. The break should be finer than those crouton-like things you find in the store.  Sprinkle  on sage, salt and pepper over the bread crumb mixture, and then pour the sautéed veggies from Step 3 into it and mix it all together. 

Step 5:  Beat two eggs in a small bowl with a whisk until frothy and then pour over the dressing and mix again. 

Step 6:  This is the tricky part. Now take that broth you made earlier that's been sitting and cooling on the counter, and pour some of it into the dressing.  I think it takes a little over a cupful to achieve the right consistency. If you get it too wet, the dressing will be gummy,  or not enough liquid will give you dry dressing. Now, taste it. If it needs salt or pepper, add a little more. Be careful with the sage, because it gets stronger as it sits.

Step 7: Place the dressing into a buttered baking dish, one large enough to hold all the dressing, and put it in the refrigerator until 45 minutes before you want to serve it. Pop the dressing into a 325 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, just time enough to heat it thoroughly. If you've been clever, the baking dish can go directly onto the table, but it will be hot.

The turkey should be nearly done when you put the dressing into the oven. But the turkey should sit for about 20 minutes before carving. While the dressing is cooking, make the mashed potatoes and gravy. Use the leftover turkey broth to thin the gravy. 

Gravy is not too difficult: use the roast pan with the turkey "drippings" in it. Place the pan on a stove burner, medium heat, and sprinkle some flour into it. Figure about one tablespoon of flour per tablespoon of grease. With a fork, stir the flour into the grease until all lumps are gone and it is simmering nicely. While continuing to stir the flour mixture, pour several cups of milk into the roast pan. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes thick. Thin the gravy with the leftover broth until you like the consistency. If the gravy is too light in color, add a drop or two of Kitchen Bouquet to darken it. Taste the gravy and add salt if needed. If there are lumps (yuck!), strain the gravy into the gravy bowl and nobody will be the wiser! That's all there is to it.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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