Turkey Day Traditions
So many people claim Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. As a child, this made zero sense to me. I just didn't get it: the meal was similar to Christmas dinner, but without presents!! Big let down. The turkey always tasted pretty good, but the side dishes that all the adults made a fuss over didn't thrill me one bit. The day after Thanksgiving, however, the day you get up at the crack of dawn to shop for door busters....that's a different story. I've always been a huge fan.
As I got older I warmed up to the holiday. First, there's the food. Once I developed a taste for dressings (stuffings) and vegetables (as a kid you would never find a veggie on my plate) and started to actively participate in the planning and execution of the meal, I started loving it! Next, there's the traditions. Cooking the night before, the aroma of the dishes associated with this holiday, waking up with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on while cooking and drinking coffee, the visiting with family and/or friends.......saying "Happy Thanksgiving!". I could go on and on.
I've spent my adult Thanksgivings in many different locations depending on where I was working or living. Even those where I wasn't in the kitchen cooking or spending time with my immediate family this day still evokes all the warm fuzzy feelings remembering the people I've loved the most and the impact they'd had on my life.
When I was living in Chicago and spent my first holiday with Chef Paul (a great cook, Thanksgiving dinner is his time to shine) I really had to bring my A-game to the table. We had just started dating and I wanted to both impress him but also give him more insight to who I was. There was only one choice: Italian Ground Meat Dressing.
I don't know how many of you know what I'm talking about, but it's a staple in my family. Yes, it might seem outlandish to have ground beef as the primary ingredient of a side dish which is in no way meant to upstage the turkey, but I'm from New Orleans where (lucky for us) many of the sides also contain seafood!
I'm going to share the recipe because once upon a time this blog was also about FOOD. We also make this for Christmas and Easter and I think it's the perfect filling for stuffed mushrooms. My MOST favorite way to eat ground meat dressing is as leftovers....on toast with cranberry sauce and mayonnaise. You could also add turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy for the ultimate Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich. Imagine that on French bread....a Thanksgiving Po-Boy!
1 lb ground beef, 1 cup each celery, onions, green onions, a few cloves of garlic, 1 egg, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, chicken broth until desired wetness, 1-2 cups bread crumbs (traditionally we used French Bread crumbs but I haven't found those anywhere but in New Orleans).
How I make it:
In a large pot I brown ground meat and then add celery, onions, green onions and garlic. I cook these until super soft. I should mention that I like these veggies minced as fine as possible, unlike some stuffings where you like to see chunks of ingredients. With the stove still on super low, I add the egg and then the bread crumbs and parmesan mixing together along with chicken broth until it has the desired wet consistency that I like. I continue to mix so that I know the egg is cooked and I can taste the dressing. Then I bake to brown the top. Not everyone bakes the dressing, this is also a personal preference. Salt, pepper and other dried spices can also be added to your liking.
"Foldover". What's that, you ask? One slice of bread with a spoonful of dressing to munch on before or after the meal.
So how did I do on that first Thanksgiving back in 2008? Well, Chef Paul thought it was awesome -- so delicious he said he was eating cold bites of it out of the fridge at 1am the next morning.
That's when I said, "I'm gonna marry this guy!"