Since Thanksgiving is a week away, I though I’d share the two dishes that I can’t rightly do without for the big meal.The first is a recipe for traditional cornbread dressing from my Great Grandmother Aswell, who cooked traditional Louisiana meals like no one else I know.  I find cornbread stuffing to be a bit more flavorful and textured than regular old stuffing, not to mention that it is a good alternative to have around for big gatherings. It’s also something fun and different to try if you’ve never had it before.

The second recipe is a sweet potato casserole that I’ve helped my mother make each year for as far back as I can remember. If you can ignore that it contains a stick of butter (and Thanksgiving is all about ignoring butter intake and giving thanks) it is absolutely delightful, from the beautifully colored, salty-sweet potatoes to the candy pecan topping, it’s the side that eats like a dessert.

Cornbread Dressing   (From Great Grandma Aswell, Louisiana)

  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 raw eggs, beaten
  • Chopped giblets
  • Dab of poultry seasoning
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/8 t pepper
  • 1/3 c. Melted butter
  • a few stalks of stalk green onion, chopped
  • 4 c. of cornbread, broken into large pieces
  • 1 c. dry white bread or biscuits, crumbled (this is optional)
  • About 3 c. Broth (chicken or turkey – you can make your own broth from the giblets by placing the neck and gizzard in 6 c. of water, adding a sliced carrot, stalk of celery, a bay leaf, 1 t. Salt, and simmering for 2-3 hours.)
  1. Make two 8 inch pans of cornbread and allow to cool, preferably overnight. You can either make it from scratch or, if you’re short on time, use a couple of those store-bought packets.
  2. Fry 3 or so slices of bacon till crisp (use bite-size pieces).
  3. To bacon, add the onion, celery, and garlic. Sautee until tender. This is when your house starts smelling like Thanksgiving Day.
  4. Place sautéed vegetable mixture in large, shallow Pyrex baking dish or bowl. Add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Gently toss all ingredients with hands or large spoon until cornbread is just moist, but not slushy.  If necessary, add more broth.
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes in 350-degree oven.  Time varies with wetness of cornbread and type of casserole used and depends upon how moist or crispy you like your stuffing.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Topping

  • 5 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/3 c milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub the sweet potatoes and place them in the oven.  Bake them until tender, about 40-60 minutes or longer if necessary. Test by pressing on the sides of the potatoes; if they are done, they will feel soft.  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel, and place their insides into a large mixing bowl and mash.  You should have about 3 cups of potatoes.  Mix in the softened butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and milk.  Pour the mixture into a baking pan or casserole dish.

Topping:

  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c butter
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Add the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves.  Cook the mixture over medium heat for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and beat in the butter, vanilla and pecans. 

Pour the topping over the sweet potatoes.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake until very hot (about 30 minutes) at 350 degrees.  The aluminum foil can be removed during the last few minutes of cooking.

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