This is one of our family's most treasured heirloom recipes, passed down from mother to daughter for at least five generations. Unfortunately, my poor mama was stuck with such a kitchen-challenged kid that our most beloved Thanksgiving food tradition was in serious of danger of going the way of the duck-billed platypus. So, goaded on by the hideous specter of Stove-Top Stuffing in our future, she and I spent several holiday seasons laboriously measuring and making notes, converting the 'pinches' and 'dashes' and 'handfuls' that she just instinctively got right into teaspoons and tablespoons and cupfuls, so that I couldn't go terribly wrong. I am posting the recipe that we finally wrote down for posterity here for safekeeping so that the next generation in our family will never lose track of their grandmother's loving legacy. The directions and side-notes are being written with these young adults in mind, so they're extremely detailed. Tediously, boringly detailed. However, making excellent dressing is such a challenge that I hope they might even be helpful to more experienced cooks should any be crazy enough to attempt this.
The cornbread is one of the real keys, of course. You may prefer to eat a type that's slightly sweet or one that includes sour cream for a lighter texture, but they do NOT make good dressing! It must be dense, and even a trace of sugar will add a very unpleasant taste. (Note: Virtually every 'mix' in the world contains sugar!) For perfect results, I highly recommend Bev's "Skillet Cornbread" (Recipe #45451). The ratio of cornbread to regular bread is also very important, and c/b recipes can yield varying amounts. Two batches of her recipe will give you exactly the right proportions for the ingredients listed here. I've never done it, but Bev gives instructions on making in advance and freezing for convenience.
The other critically important ingredient is homemade chicken broth. (Note to my children: Don't even think about using canned or I'll come back to haunt you guys! :) ) This might sound like it's beyond your skill level, but it's actually the easiest thing in the world. If you're clueless, click on the "Community" tab at the top of the home page. Scroll down to the category "Regional Cuisines", then click on "French/Creole/Cajun". There will be several 'stickies' at the top. Choose "Soupe Glorious Soupe", then click on the first one, "Now We're Cooking: Chicken Stock". (And, yes, someday I'll learn how to do a link....) This will take you to an extraordinary tutorial by chia and Chef Kate that turns stock-making into child's play. You'll need two batches of it. This can also be made up to a couple of months in advance and frozen.
Finally, there's the timing. I've divided the instructions into 4 parts, indicating what steps should be done each day beginning with the Monday before Thanksgiving. Not only will it be less overwhelming to spread out the workload, but the dressing will also taste much better if you assemble and season it gradually, reheating after each step.
Both times and yields are wild guesses.
I just want to say one last thing to my guys: Take notes! Hey, this isn't a 'never fail' sort of recipe, you know. It's more like an ongoing challenge. But every year it will get easier (and taste better) if you write down what worked, what could stand a little improvement, etc. Before you know it, *your* dressing will taste exactly like your grandmother's...maybe better! Not many dishes are worth this sort of effort, but this is more than just food. I know you agree with me that it's all about our heritage and wonderful shared memories and blessings too numerous to count. So I'm depending on y'all to continue the family tradition, you hear?