Nana’s Southern Chicken and Dressing
“First you boil a chicken”. That’s exactly what you do – of course you could buy a roasted chicken and use canned chicken stock but it will not taste the same. We have strict family rules about our holiday staple and (don’t laugh) here are just a few:
1. While we may have turkey or ham or both, we always ALWAYS have chicken and dressing.
2. Chicken and dressing must be made one week in advance and frozen until the night before when it thaws in the fridge and then is baked the morning of Thanksgiving. It makes a HUGE difference in texture and moistness.
3. Dressing must be baked in an iron skillet – it must be.
4. You must use the “right” cornbread mix – I do not mean the brand, I mean the kind. Don’t get the kind with sugar.
5. Dad always had chili powder sprinkled on top of his as I do and Top Girl as well .
6. Top Girl always eats leftover dressing with mayonnaise mixed in and canned cranberry jelly on the side.
7. Too much sage or salt makes it awful so the youngest person in the kitchen test tastes it before freezing.
8. Mr. Picky Eater must have jarred Heinz Roasted Turkey Gravy to go on top of his – not homemade giblet gravy.
I think that’s it. Whew! It is a list that has grown over the years but we love our chicken and dressing more than anything during the holidays. Lawyer Boy, Wonder Boy, Son-in-law and now Rocket love it too.
Once I lived in Kansas City where I worked at a hospital that prided itself on having a real live culinary chef on staff. I worked on Thanksgiving Day and ate in the cafeteria like everyone else. I was young and silly enough to think that everyone ate like my family did. When I got that “stuffing” on my plate, I thought it looked odd but when I put it in my mouth I very nearly spit it out in front of God and everyone. It had apples, nuts, and raisins in it…………What the heck was THIS??? Everyone oohhed and aaahhhed over it so I tried to act hip and sophisticated but in the end I longed for my Nana’s dressing and vowed never to have another holiday that was without it. So far, I have kept my vow.
This is real live Southern Chicken and Dressing – at least in my family so if you make it, I hope you enjoy it! Before I give you the recipe, a lesson about cornbread mixes.
See this? There are three kinds of mixes Buttermilk Cornbread, Cornbread, and Corn Muffin Mix.
Now, looking on the back you can see Sugars: 0gms in the two on the left but 5gms in the Corn Muffin Mix. DO NOT use corn muffin mix. There is nothing worse than sweet dressing – at least for us.
7 Cups of cornbread crumble
1 boiled and deboned chicken with meat shredded
4 Cups of white bread crumbled
5 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon. black pepper
3 teaspoons ground sage
4 Cups of chicken broth
3 cups of milk
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 Cup celery finely chopped
1-2 Tablespoons of oil
Salt to taste
First you boil a chicken
While chicken is cooking, set out white bread to dry out a little
Debone chicken and discard skin as well
Strain chicken stock and set aside
Make cornbread in iron skillet as directed on pan
Let cornbread cool completely and then crumble it and the white bread to equal ingredients above.
Wipe out the iron skillet with a paper towel and then put oil in followed by the onion and celery. Let it cook until both are soft.
Add the onion and celery to the crumbled breads then all the liquids, sage, pepper and finally the eggs because if they go in last, the liquid will have cooled the celery and onions and it will not scramble them.
It’s going to look more like bread soup than dressing but it’s supposed to be soupy.
Add the deboned chicken here – as much or as little as you like. Mother does not like any in hers but Mr. Picky Eater likes a whole lot with his.
We have the youngest person in the room taste it because then because their taste buds work best but since it has raw eggs in it – you make your own choice. Make sure it has a subtle flavor of sage and the salt is enhancing not overpowering.
Dip it into the dish or iron skillet.
(these next few steps are if you want to do it like our family, if not skip strait to the oven sentence)
Wrap it in heavy duty foil and place in freezer until the night before, then put in fridge to defrost, then the morning of the celebration:
Place in a 350F oven and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Watch to make sure it does not burn on the bottom because it will not get burned on top before it gets burned on bottom and I do not know why – a clear glass Pyrex dish should help with that.
Bring it out and let the eating begin!
very pretty! and whew, you do have a lot of stuffing criteria.
Those were just a few Liz – just a few! 🙂
Choc Chip Uru
It sounds intense regarding the amount of work but looks rewarding – the taste would be delicious 😀
Your nana was so smart! Thanksgiving and Christmas are busy enough with roasting turkey and perhaps baking ham (not to mention the other sides!) without having to boil a chicken and bake cornbread as well. Make-ahead and freeze dressing lightens the load! And it sounds delicious, Kelli. The Pyrex dish may let you see the bottom but it won’t cook as lovely as your iron skillet!
Thank you Stacy! We have since tried making the dressing the day of Thanksgiving and it is just not the same – not as moist I think – so we make sure we freeze it every time! 🙂
I also love the idea of preparing the dish ahead of time. I do so many things in advance but had never thought of this. And I have a square iron skillet just like yours to bake it.
First, it makes it crispy and good on the edges and corners and then – with the good distribution of heat in the iron skillet, it cooks so much better. We tried it once in a big disposable pan for convenience but it didn’t cook well.
We make it too, we taste before we add the eggs (they are last to be added)
That’s a great idea! Thank you for dropping by – please comment anytime. I love your name! That is our family name on mom’s side so Nana was actually Nana Taylor to several of the 18 grandkids. 🙂
I cook a saucer-full in the microwave and have a volunteer taste it. Never have a problem finding one of those! Make a couple of days ahead and refrigerate, pulling out in time for it to warm a little bit before I put it in the oven. It’s always good!
I make my dressing basically the same way except for adding a can of cream of mushroom or chicken soup. And I cook my onions and celery some before adding to dressing. Hate to crunch on undercooked onions and celery!
You are so right about cooking those onions and celery – I hate to crunch on them too. I’ve never thought to add cream of chicken (while I would LOVE cream of Mushroom, Mr. Picky Eater would be upset about that) and I think I would like to add that for the Christmas dressing! Thank you for dropping by and please come back and comment any time!
I have never heard of this “chicken and dressing” before. I may have married a “my dad is from the south” man, but I guess he didn’t get enough exposure to all the deliciousness that is southern cooking.
I’m picky about my stuffing/dressing. My aunt made this kind every Thanksgiving while I was growing up. It was dry and blah and just not good… but they all drowned it in gravy and loved it. Me? I just started making myself a box of stovetop and being done with it. Maybe this year I’ll bust out of my “I’m afraid to make dressing because my aunt’s horrible dressing has scarred me for life” ideology and give it a try. Yours looks pretty delicious, and I bet it’s a lot better than the dry stuff my aunt made.
The uncooked version has to be soupy and then you need to freeze it – won’t be dry at all as long as you don’t overcook! I promise if you try it – you will enjoy it – I certainly think so anyway. When this dressing is dry (and it has been a couple times) it is like dry pebbles with no taste………”soupy” is the trick!! 🙂
I think I’ll make a crock pot chicken to get the stock (and get to eat chicken!) to make this with. OM NOM. I’m excited!
I’m excited too for you! I can’t wait to see how you like it. I’m glad you are making the chicken stock. you can buy it but I promise that it’s much more smooth tasting this way.
I’ve never heard of freezing it before, either. I’ve also never put eggs in it. I might try this this year in addition to our normal stuffing (which was Mom’s fabulous cornbread stuffing!). It should be interesting. Oh, I will cut the amount w-a-y down because I think there will only be three of us this year. 🙁 Maybe I’ll even forget the turkey and just do chicken!!
Chicken is good and easy! 🙂 We have ham and turkey but with 5 grown men and a little eating machine in the family it is gone quick!
Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. My Aunt usually makes the dressing but it looks and tastes like cat food. Lol. I just make the store bought. I know that is horrible. May have to get me a cast iron skillet or is it possible to make without one?
Of course it is! Just put it in a pyrex dish or even in one of those disposable aluminum pans – works great – and you can freeze those as well!
I have a vintage recipe that just says, “Stew a hen.” LOL
And you would stew a hen in a “stewer”! That’s what Nana called a pot. Very few people know what that is.
I’m so sorry you had that horrific hospital experience – if ever I was presented ANY food with raisins in it, the hospital would be a good place for me to be seeing as how it would make me sick just looking at it! And please know that when I posted a couple of weeks ago about de-stressing over the holidays and mentioned swapping homemade dressing for Stove Top as an option that I was NOT talking to you!
Kelli, we must have had the same grandma. Lol!
I have the same recipe!! I use sage croutons instead of white bread. It really isn’t too much sage either after adding the sage, also. We also.test taste it before we add the eggs. My 34 year old son has helped me make it this the 2nd year. He said he had to be the one to carry on this recipe. We have wonderful bonding time making it!!
Such a lovely story! Interestingly, my daughter is also 34! We have a lot in common including your name – although spelled differently, that’s my middle name! Thanks so much for dropping by and please come back often!
L J Grant
This is almost the same way I have fixed my dressing for fifty years. Can’t stand boxed stuffing or sugar in my cornbread. I use fresh sage, poultry seasoning, and cooked breakfast sausage. My g’kids and my grownup children get quite offended if they can’t have several taste tests before it goes in the skillet. They also call dressing the main event, not the turkey. LJG
Yes! We love taste “testing” – in fact, in early June we have family coming and they have asked for mom’s chicken and dressing! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by and please do come again!
It appears that you use French bread for your white bread from the pictures.French bread would definitely make the dressing taste different as opposed to regular white bread. Also I have a question about the freezing part. You don’t freeze the dressing in the iron skillet do you? Looks like putting a cold iron skillet in a hot oven would ruin the skillet possibly cracking it. Just curious. I would freeze the dressing in maybe a square Pyrex pan and transfer it to the skillet when it was time to bake. Last year I used Italian bread for my white bread in my dressing. It was delicious. My Mom was from South Carolina. She baked her chicken and made the dressing separately.
Hi Leann! Yes — we had some leftover French bread the day I was making the post so I used it… I just tore it up smaller than I would have had I used Rainbo or Sara Lee You are also correct in that it should not be frozen in the iron skillet — putting it in a pyrex pan or a disposable tin foil pan is the right was to do it. Thanks for coming by and please come back anytime!
This is an amazing recipe and it will be on the table next month for Thanksgiving. Like yourself, my grandfather gave me a tip that I have always followed. He told me that when you believe you have added enough celery, add more. He was soooo right!
Some people in the South also add boiled eggs in their dressing. Try it sometime.
This is very interesting. My mother and grandmother before her made chicken and dressing this same way without the sage and celery. They never had celery on the farm and no one liked sage, so we still don’t use those. Reading all the comments shows that us southerners think a lot alike. My son and grandson have both watched and helped so they can continue making the dressing when I’m gone. We never had turkey when I was growing up, so it was always just chicken and dressing. We do not saute the onions. They cook with the dressing and we don’t have crispy chunks. My grandson would not eat it if there were uncooked onions. I normally do not send comments, but this intrigued me.
You have echoed my concerns about dressing and stuffing to a T! I say the same, and the rules are the same. No such thing as stuffing down here in the south. I tried it. Nuff said and done with it.
No prepared chicken or broth except by the cook and at home. I use a stick of butter in my dressing. Also, leftover bread is great, but if I don’t have any or enough, I crumble leftover biscuits, and/or soda crackers, and/or Rice Krispies. Dressing is my favorite holiday food.