by Kara Kimbrough
Indisputably, the big, bronzed turkey is the most iconic component of the Thanksgiving table. But I believe side dishes and desserts make a feast taste and resemble the perfect Norman Rockwellian holiday.
Memorable sides and desserts are necessary for many reasons, including providing a balance for the (in my opinion) somewhat banal-tasting turkey. From Brussels sprouts with bacon to cranberry relish with oranges and walnuts, two of my favorite sides sate my craving for comfort and something a little out of the ordinary. My goal is to create dishes that are remembered long after the turkey carcass is boiling in preparation for next week's turkey gumbo.
After Dr. Fauci vetoed large gatherings last year, I was forced to create an impromptu Thanksgiving. As a result, I discovered a dressing-like dish that played well with the first turkey I’ve ever baked. To say I was nervous to even attempt to create a dish for which my mother is the known expert is an understatement.
As a result, I didn’t even try, but came up with my own dressing containing plenty of cornbread and most of the regular dressing ingredients. While she doesn’t add chicken to hers, I felt it was necessary in case my inaugural turkey wasn’t fit for consumption.
I’m happy to report that after a frantic, last-minute water bath to speed up the defrosting process and more handwringing during the cooking process than the humble Pilgrims would’ve imagined, my turkey emerged from the oven golden brown and for the most part, edible.
However, the star was the chicken and dressing. It was so good I’ve made it several times since Thanksgiving for regular meals and to drop off to ailing friends. In short, it’s one of the best things about last year’s pandemic Thanksgiving.
Inaugural Chicken and Dressing Casserole
- 2 pounds chicken breasts, shredded (about 4 cups)
- 6 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread (I don’t recommend Jiffy Mix cornbread for this recipe; make it from scratch)
- 8 slices firm white bread, torn into small pieces
- 3-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with butter or margarine. Boil chicken breasts in lightly salted water until done (don’t overboil). Reserve 3-1/2 cups chicken broth from cooking water.
Sauté chopped onions and celery in butter over medium heat until translucent. Next, in a large bowl, stir together all ingredients except butter. Spoon mixture into baking dish. Dot evenly with butter.
Bake uncovered about 45 minutes or until top is bubbling and golden brown.