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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I love what the holidays bring each year! But I mostly love the wonderful food that comes with Thanksgiving and Christmas! If you’re like most people you probably have two separate menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas but while I might change a few menu items there is always a fried turkey, cornbread dressing, and a red velvet cake. We’ve been frying our turkey since we’ve been married, about 29 years, and while it sounds like it’s a hard task, it’s really pretty simple. Patience and common sense are key when you decide you want to fry a 15-20 lb. bird in a deep pot of hot oil, but if you do it successfully, you will never bake another turkey. In fact, I’ve never baked a turkey!

The Rack House

The cornbread dressing is a Southern holiday staple that you will see on virtually every table in the South during these Fall and Winter celebrations. My granny made some of the best I’ve ever had and most of the recipes for it have been passed down for generations, including mine. And it’s so moist and tasty that I just know you’ll love it!

Red velvet cakes are also a Southern tradition. I see red velvet cakes and cupcakes all over the country, but the recipe that my mother-in-law used is the best I’ve ever had. My husband made it a condition of our marriage that I learn how to cook it like she did (well, not really, but he surely does love it). It comes out moist and firm without being too “thick” like a lot of the other recipes I’ve seen. And I’ve learned over the years to double the icing amount to be sure to get good coverage. The nuts in the icing are a must for us, but they can easily be left out if you have concerns about allergies or just picky eaters.

These three dishes are staples for our family at the holidays. Give them a try and I think you will feel the same. Happy Holidays and Happy Eating!

 

Fried Turkey

1 (12 to 15 lb.) whole turkey
2 containers Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning
The juice of 3 lemons
1 stick butter
3 gallons of vegetable oil (Some people prefer peanut oil, but the vegetable oil works as well and is less expensive).

You will need a large turkey pot and outdoor burner to fry the turkey.
Thaw the turkey and remove the giblets. Melt the butter and add the juice of the lemons. Brush the butter and lemon mixture over the entire turkey. Sprinkle heavily with the Tony Chachere’s inside and out making sort of a crust all over the turkey. Some will fall off but keep piling it on. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight. When you remove it the next day add more seasoning to try and cover as much of the turkey as you can.

When ready to fry put the oil in the pot and heat up to 350 degrees. You will a hook to place through the turkey in order to lower into the pot. Most pots come with the hook. Ease the turkey down in the oil, making sure to go very slow as the hot oil will splatter all over and could burn you. The turkey should not touch the bottom of the pot, but be suspended in the oil. Fry for 3 1⁄2 minutes per pound; when turkey will float freely it is done. Remove from oil and allow to cool a bit before slicing.

 

Southern Cornbread Dressing

2 cups self-rising cornmeal 3 cups chicken stock, (up to 4 cups)
1 cup self-rising flour 1 tsp. sage
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil Salt, to taste
1 1⁄2 cups buttermilk Pepper, to taste
3 sticks butter, (1 stick softened for the cornbread) 6 eggs (boiled)
4 stalks celery finely chopped (I use food processor) 5 chicken legs deboned
1 onion finely chopped (I use food processor)

For cornbread: Preheat oven to 350°. Combine cornmeal and flour in a bowl and 1 stick of softened butter, vegetable oil, buttermilk and 4 eggs in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into a well greased hot cast iron skillet and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.In a large bowl, crumble cornbread, then set aside.
Salt and pepper the chicken legs and submerge them in water. Cook until done and
debone. Add the chicken, onion, celery, chopped eggs, sage, salt, pepper and the
additional 2 sticks of butter melted to the cornbread mixture. Mix well.
Pour the chicken stock over the cornbread mixture until it is well saturated. You will want it to be a bit runny, as it can tend to dry out, add more as needed. Transfer to a well greased baking dish.
Bake at 350° until dressing is cooked through, about 45-60 minutes.

 

Red Velvet Cake

2 c. Wesson Oil                    1 tsp. vinegar
2 ½ c. cake flour                 1 tsp. Baking soda
1 ½ c. sugar                         1 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk                     1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs                                   2 oz. red food color
2 Tbsp. cocoa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and pour into 3 floured and greased 9
inch cake pans. Bake about 25 to 28 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on racks for
ten minutes. Turn out and cool completely before icing.

Icing
1 box confectioners sugar                    1 tsp. Vanilla
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese                          1 c. chopped pecans
1 stick butter (unsalted)

Mix cream cheese and butter. Gradually add sugar until well blended. Add vanilla and nuts.
Note: I typically double the icing recipe.

Photos courtesey of JHarder Photography

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