Thanksgiving memories. Although Christmas remains my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving ranks right up there because I get to cook dinner. Granted, I have to cook in another kitchen far, far away without my favorite pots and utensils, but I still get to indulge in preparing a feast. (If I could fix a prodigious feast at my house, Thanksgiving would surpass the Ho Ho Ho variety.)
This year the menu included:
Roasted Fennel, Carrots, and Red Bell Peppers
Pear and Cranberry Pie
(I also cooked a turkey so we could have traditional turkey sandwiches and to make two huge pots of turkey soup.)
Last year, I had prepared roasted fennel and carrots. What a hit. This year the dish was expected. I was happy to oblige. What made a lasting impression this year turned out to be the dressing. I make my own, of course, but never use a recipe, and I’ve never fixed the same thing twice. This year bestowed upon me an even greater challenge. We travel to Knoxville for Thanksgiving every year and I usually make my way to The Fresh Market to pick up all of the items for all of the fixin’s. Not this year. The road from my mother-in-law’s house to the store had turned into a parking lot on Wed. afternoon. We settled on going to Kroger’s.
The dilemma in going to Kroger was the sausage and the bread for the dressing. I really detest the Johnson’s brand of Italianesque sausage. So I dewired my brain (and did this while all of suburbia mulled around in Kroger’s), and thought “Maybe breakfast sausage would do?” Three choices stood out – Jimmy Dean Sage, Tennessee Pride, and Mayo’s. The sage tube tempted me first but after reading that both Jimmy and the Pride contained MSG, I opted for Mayo’s from Lenoir City, TN. This tube was wrapped in cloth and then encased in plastic. I then mulled over bread options. Slim pickings, but the Hawaiian Sweet Bread won out. Both of these selections turned out to be quite excellent choices. Mayo’s sausage was smoked and smelled devilishly divine and the Hawaiian Sweet Bread had a texture akin to the colonial Sally Lunn variety.
Now, here is my attempt to recreate this recipe in a written form.
pjpink’s Thanksgiving Dressing
1 sweet onion, diced
1 pound smoked sausage, preferably Mayo’s from Lenoir City TN (Surry sausage may also work well)
1 round loaf of Hawaiian Sweet Bread, torn into pieces
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and diced
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup chicken broth (approximately)
½ cup of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Sauté the onion in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat until tender and translucent. Add the sausage and cook until done, breaking up the sausage into tiny chunks as it cooks. When the sausage is just done, place the mixture in a bowl and set aside to cool. In a bowl large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients, add the torn bread pieces, pears, and cranberries. Add the cooled sausage mixture and the parsley. Pour in about half of the broth and begin mixing the ingredients with your hands. Add the rest of the broth as needed until all of the bread is moist and everything begins sticking together. Place the dressing into a 9” x 13” glass or ceramic baker. Bake for about 30 – 45 minutes. Serve whilst hot.