Dressing – versus – Stuffing!!!

HamBonesFoodforThought

Dressing – versus – Stuffing!!!

Don’t  mean to start another Civil War – that ended in 1865; let’s leave it there!!!  But, let’s do have a little fun talking about food differences above and below the Mason-Dixon line!!!  But, remember, we’re just having some fun!

Okay, so now you want to know what’s so funny?!  Let’s say we are about to have a conversation a bit early in the year, about six to seven months early!  It’s April, and we’re going to talk about Thanksgiving Dinner!  This brings me back to my days living in New York City in the 1970s, and talking food with my northern friends that are affectionately known as “Yankees”!  They love a “bready” accompaniment with their turkey the same as we do down south.  But, we have different names for that “twice-baked bread”!

Years ago, while living in New York City some friends invited me over for Thanksgiving Dinner. On the menu was pecan-cranberry dressing!  It was absolutely delicious! ‘Twas a wonderful cornucopia of diced celery and onions, chopped pecans, chopped “craisins” (i.e., dried cranberries), delicious stock, shredded carrots and all sorts of proper Thanksgiving spices (i.e., sage, thyme, celery seed, onion powder, garlic powder, turmeric, salt, pepper, etc.).  BUT, it was not dressing – it was stuffing!

Now, hear me out—don’t chop my head off yet!  I call it stuffing, because down south if it’s made with loaf-bread, it’s stuffing!  If it’s made with cornbread, its dressing!  Again, as I said earlier, the pecan-cranberry dish was wonderful; absolutely delicious.  However, it was made with white bread, cut up into small cubes, dried in the oven before using to mix the dish. Down south – that’s stuffing; whether you stuff the bird or not stuff the bird–doesn’t matter–it’s stuffing!!!

Also, there were NO eggs in the mixture!  As Aunt Emma T and Bunch would have told me  — “boy, you gotta put some eggs in there to bind your dressing!!!” (Note:  Oh, you should read the story of these two fantastic cooks in the first volume in the series:  “Ham Bones: Memoirs of a Southern Cook”.)  No self-respecting southern cook is going to make dressing and not have eggs in it!  It holds it all together in a delicious sort of way!

So, what’s dressing and how do you make it?  It could have been everything that the pecan-cranberry stuffing was, with one substitution and one addition!  Don’t use the dried and cubed loaf bread, instead use some dried cornbread!  Add to the mixture a couple of eggs!  Don’t stuff it in the bird, (a little something I almost never do because of health precautions); instead, bake it separately in a buttered rectangular dish!

Whether you’re making stuffing or dressing, the key is moisture!  No one likes a dry stuffing; no one likes a dry dressing! Here is how you remedy that little malady of cooking—plenty of stock!  Once I finish mixing my dressing “batter” which is rather thick, I make sure that I have enough stock in it that is looks like a wet cornbread!  In the casserole dish (i.e., the rectangular pan), I want to see a bit of that moisture just above the batter – little tiny pools of stock being visible!  Ahhh, then I know for sure that my dressing will not only be delicious—it will also be moist because I have enough stock in it!  Also, stuffing and dressing are two of those “the hands and eyes perfect the recipe” type of dishes! Initially, you do the basic measuring, then it’s feel and eyesight the rest of the way!

Let’s chat a little bit about geography!  My thoughts on the dressing versus the stuffing thing is that it probably came about with a lot of baking of loaf bread in the north; lots of leftovers; and a use for catching turkey drippings inside the bird!  Personally, I don’t like my stuffing having been cooked inside the bird—I prefer it to have been baked in a separate pan.  Food experts also tell me that it safer to cook it separately as well.

Actually, growing up in South Carolina, I never saw a turkey that was stuffed.  All the dressing was baked separately from the bird.  When I ventured north, my relatives from the south that migrated to the north, though a nice divide of some of them preferring the stuffing they discovered once they migrated, also cooked such stuffing separated—thus NOT a stuffing—as nothing was stuffed!!!

So, to all my very dear friends north of my southern divide, we will not have another Civil War, though we may have a civil war as to preference of which dish.  But, for the most part, we will instead enjoy the wonderful variations of stuffing that I discovered in New York City; and this delicious cornbread dressing that we make as tradition down here in Dixie.  My family has a couple dressings that we make.  I start with the historical cornbread from my Daddy’s side of the family.  The Finch Sisters did wonders with cornmeal and you can read all about them, their cornbread, and their dressing.  See their recipes in volume one in the series:  “Ham Bones: Memoirs of a Southern Cook”!)

Okay, everybody put down your arms – grab a plate and fork! Turkey and dressing and stuffing and giblet gravy on the menu!

All best wishes for good eating; enjoy!

Joe

Dressing - versus - Stuffing!!! - The Ham Bones Blog Click To Tweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way to Cook: Eggs (scrambled)

HamBonesCookingTechniques

“The Way to Cook: Eggs (scrambled)”

Is there really any better total protein than the incomparable egg? The debatable answer to that question I will leave to others. I would much prefer to enjoy that wonderful food in a most glorious yet simple way – scrambled! Yes, the basic scrambled egg that we grew up on is both a simple food to make and when made correctly, is glorious on an indulgent level! The absolute first cardinal rule to perfect scrambled eggs is very low heat! You cannot rush and cook wonderful scrambled eggs in a minute or so—just ain’t gonna happen folks! Think eggs; custard; eggs; custard –get the picture— it’s stirring and patience!

Whether I’m having them for breakfast, a light lunch, or my entrée for dinner, it is the technique of preparing them that makes all the difference in the world. In fact, I’ve become so finicky about my eggs that I am not at all hesitant about sending them back for proper preparation and presentation when dining out! So, let me tell you my way of cooking this creamy velvet of a dish.

First and foremost, I do like decadence when it comes to scrambled eggs! I want rich unsalted pure butter in them; I want no whites showing in the finished dish; and I want a small curd that’s oh-so-creamy. (The creaminess is not generated from adding milk; it’s the true creaminess of the egg itself that you want.) The reasons I use unsalted butter are twofold: There’s to be only one person in charge of the seasoning in my kitchen—that would be me, not the maker of the butter; as well as the fact that I like for the richness and quality of the butter to stand on its own!

One final quip before we are off to the kitchen: Unless I am making a sandwich that calls for it, I don’t want a scrambled egg that’s dry or with brown scorch spots as a result of overcooking! My goal every time is a creamy velvet-textured small-curd delight akin to a superb cottage cheese!

So, how do I achieve this end result? Well, as Aunt Emma T and Bunch would tell you: Consistency of technique brings learned perfection! So, let’s go to the kitchen and cook some “learned perfection” of scrambled eggs! (Note: You can read the story of these two fantastic cooks in volume one of the series – “Ham Bones: Memoirs of a Southern Cook!)

First, let’s get three large eggs; pull out a fork from the utensil drawer; a miniature hand-held whisk; a medium-size bowl; a small sauce pan; iodized table salt; and a stick of very high-quality European-style butter! Ah, the anticipation!

Though I keep my eggs refrigerated, I crack them and let them sit in a covered bowl for 20 minutes or so on the kitchen counter before working with them. Immediately afterwards, I turn on my stove to its highest setting and set my sauce pan on it for about 2 minutes—no more than that mind you! This is to temper my pan! Then, I move the pan to another eye on the stove where there is no heat happening; then turn my burner eye down to low! I now return my sauce pan to the burner that’s on low heat and put in two tablespoons of butter!
(Remember, I told you I like decadence in my scrambled eggs; but you can use one tablespoon of butter if you prefer. When I make these eggs for friends who have to watch their cholesterol, I actually use a margarine that is made with olive oil – and I call the finished dish ”Scrambled Eggs a la Olive Grove “– they are divine!)

Now, add to the eggs a liberal pinch of iodized salt (I use about ¼ teaspoons for three large eggs) and with great vigor, whisk the eggs profusely until well scrambled. (Now, now, boys and girls – don’t cheat! I do not want you to pull out your blender and blend the eggs, as blended eggs are not scrambled eggs! If you blend, you will not get the correct texture to which we are striving! Instead, you will get a fluffy soufflé-type omelet of an egg! I love omelet, but that’s another post at a later date—different technique!)

So, now that you’ve done your whole-arm exercise for the day, take a look at your sauce pan. Your butter should have slowly melted; a shallow sea of luscious yellowness with no browned butter. If your butter browned, you do not have your burner low enough. The butter should melt very slowly!

All at once, pour the entire bowl of salted eggs into the melted butter and turn your heat up — ONE notch only! Give the eggs about 30 seconds, and suddenly like a patient parent, use your fork to stir those eggs from center point out until you reach the outer edge of your sauce pan. Continue to do this from center point covering the complete circumference of the pan all of about 5 minutes. Keep stirring – do not let a flat skin set on the bottom of your pan – stir boys and girls, stir!!!

You should now begin to see small curds! Make sure you have the tines of the fork pointed downwards and from the center, start slowly stirring again – eggs will be wet (rather liquid yet) – but, take them off the heat completely and stir once more.  Finally, use the fork to now flip and flop the eggs within the pan then onto the plate and using the fork to finalize your curd size! If you removed the eggs from the heat timely, you will see a plate of soft creamy velvet-textured scrambled eggs that will be a love sonnet for your pallet! Enjoy!

All best wishes for good eating!

Joe

The Way to Cook: Eggs (scrambled) - The Ham Bones Blog Click To Tweet