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Stuff it: Dressing can make or break Thanksgiving dinner

What's your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner? That's a tough question for me because there aren't too many foods that I don't like. And there's just a fine line separating several of them. But there's one thing that I'm certain of: Stuffing (...

Jeff Tiedeman
Jeff Tiedeman

What's your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner?

That's a tough question for me because there aren't too many foods that I don't like. And there's just a fine line separating several of them.

But there's one thing that I'm certain of: Stuffing (or dressing as some people like to call it) can make or break a Turkey Day meal.

And my opinion is shared by a majority of the respondents of a poll at foodnetworkfans.com (an Internet fan site of the Food Network), who say stuffing and dressing is a more popular Thanksgiving dish than turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce or even pie. Almost 38 percent said that stuffing/dressing is their favorite part of Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Coming in second was leftovers (18.75 percent), with turkey and mashed potatoes/gravy with a mere 12.5 percent rating at No. 3, followed by sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie (6.25 percent).

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While some people might like to cite a 2005 Gallup Poll on the same subject, which identified turkey (51 percent) as the American public's favorite Thanksgiving food or dish, with stuffing/dressing (14 percent) a distant second, I will argue until the last scoop of dressing has eaten.

I make a pretty simple dressing. It contains dried bread, egg, onion, celery, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and a little milk. Occasionally, I'll substitute a little ground pork for some of the bread. Most of those ingredients are contained in most stuffing recipes.

The recipe is virtually the same one my Grandma Menard used when I was a kid and we all got together (our family and those of my mom's siblings) on the fourth Thursday of November to observe our national holiday of Thanksgiving that first was celebrated under President George Washington in 1789 as a one-time event.

(Later, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. It wasn't until 1939 that President Franklin Roosevelt permanently set the holiday as it is today. Congress approved it in 1941.)

Of course, Grandma passed on the recipe to my mom and her to me. And I think both of my brothers and several cousins still use the recipe, too, as well as one for baked oysters (see recipe at www.grandforksherald.com/ event/tag/group/Features/tag/food/).

But there are about just as many recipes for stuffing/dressing as you can shake a turkey drumstick at. I came across one this past week -- courtesy of co-worker Megan LaPlaca --that is bound to find its way to our dining room table in the not-too-distant future.

Megan said the stuffing, made with cornbread, is the best she's ever had in her life. "And I'm not saying that because it's my mom's," she added.

I got a real kick out of reading Kathy LaPlaca's cornbread stuffing recipe because of the conversational style in which she'd written it in an e-mail to Megan.

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My favorite part was how she described what makes the cornbread so good:

"The WHOLE SECRET to the good taste, in my opinion, relies on the turkey stock. If you cheat and use store-bought chicken stock, it won't taste the same. If you can find store-bought turkey stock, you could try it; I never have, but I have tried the store-bought chicken stock, and it sucks in cornbread stuffing, in my opinion."

But the comment of Kathy's that I found most interesting was that she said the recipe made a "Small Portion!"

I'd like to see her "Large Portion."

Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at jtiedeman@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: FOOD
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