Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Five Favorites: Southern Thanksgiving

My parents are coming up to DC to celebrate Thanksgiving with me and my husband. Somehow, we will make a full Thanksgiving meal for 4 in the glorified box that is our kitchen. I woke up in the middle of the night wondering how, exactly, we would do this in a kitchen with one drawer (too narrow for a silverware drawer), about 2 feet of counter space, and a shallow single sink. But I refuse to admit defeat - not when I have the thought of these delicious foods driving me:

Sweet Potato Casserole 
If I can't have anything else for Thanksgiving, I want this - yes, more than turkey, which is overrated. Ours isn't as sweet as most people's and the topping is pecans, not marshmallows. We also add sour cream (that's our surprise ingredient that makes it so creamy and good).

Let me explain what I mean by dressing. I mean cornbread dressing. It is baked in a pan, not stuffed in a bird. It has chicken broth, crumbled corn bread, bread crumbs or some other filler if desired, sage (lots of sage), and poultry seasoning. It is topped with gravy. It is moist and thick and to die for. The first time I had Yankee "stuffing" I thought wow, these people don't know what they're missing. 

Squash Casserole 
The rest of the sour cream will go in this dish. Here's what you do: chop up a bunch of summer squash and an equal amount of sweet onion. Bring to a boil in just a little water, then simmer. The Southern term is "cook it down," i.e. cook it until it's mush. Put the mush in a baking dish and mix in sour cream to taste, then top with canned French fried onions (not bread crumbs - these are so much better). So easy, so gooey, so caloric and divine. 

Cranberry Sauce

None of this canned crap will do at Thanksgiving. Buy bags of fresh cranberries and follow the directions on the back. All you need is sugar, water, and cranberries, and time for it to gel in the fridge. This is the cranberry sauce your grandma made, and it is so good on leftover turkey sandwiches.

I realized that most people don't know what I mean by cornbread (i.e. what constitutes most of dressing). Real cornbread does not have any wheat flour. ANY. AT ALL. It also does not have sugar or "sweet milk" (that's what old time Southerners call regular milk to distinguish it from butter milk). Here is how you make cornbread: 

Get a cast iron skillet and put about 1/2 inch vegetable oil or bacon grease in it. Stick it in the oven and turn the oven to 450. Meanwhile, mix equal parts cornmeal (white) with buttermilk (whole fat), beat in 1 or 2 eggs (2 if you're using more than 2 cups cornmeal), and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda unless you're using self-rising cornmeal, and a little salt. When the oven is hot, pull out the skillet (with mitts - it's hot!) and pour the excess grease into the mixing bowl. Stir it up and pour into the skillet. Cook about 35 minutes or until golden-brown. Eat with butter, not honey. If you're making it for dressing, stick it in the fridge to cool so it's easier to crumble.

Add some sweet tea, butterbeans, and turkey with gravy, and you've got yourself a Southern Thanksgiving dinner. Can't wait.

* Just realized that Hallie won't be doing Five Favorites this week. Fail.

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