Dressing is not something that’s common place on the tables of America today. It’s an old school recipe that’s a little more time-consuming to prepare than most folks are willing to put into it. Sure you see it on Thanksgiving, other holidays, or assorted special occasions. But it’s just not as prevalent as it once was for the average American diet.
Now while a tasty side dish for any pork or poultry meal, dressing wasn’t on the menu in my Nany’s kitchen simply because it was delicious food.
I had once noted when I was young that dressing appeared on many tables about the end of each week. Sunday was a big dressing day at Nany’s and something my grandfather drooled about for days, in anticipation of the gooey stuff.
One Sunday morning as Nany toasted every scrap of “leftover” bread in the kitchen, I asked her what was up with dressing on Sundays.Did we have dressing on Sunday’s because it was a special day?
She said “Well, you see all this here bread I am toasting in the oven? I have been saving it all week for this pan of dressing. The heals from loaves of bread, couple of left over biscuits, some cornbread too crumbly to spread butter on. All go into the dressing bin. Sunday just happens to be the day that falls at the end of the week and we have to use the bread before it goes bad. Don’t want to waste those good left overs. Don’t want to throw out money”
I answered with a nod noting the bread loaf heals, stale biscuits from meals earlier in the week, and even a clump of cornbread from the day we had eaten ham and beans.
She went on to explain to me that when she was growing up, before it was common place to buy bread in a store and most people couldn’t afford it anyway, bread in her home was made on Mondays. Bread for meals, sandwiches, or dipping in soup, all prepared in one day to last an entire week. Cornbread and biscuits filled in on days when sliced bread wasn’t required, and no one ever minded a fluffy pan of biscuits topped with country milk gravy.
So dressing was a Sunday staple not as a special occasion, but out of necessity and saving waste. It was about not throwing away money. Dressing was about making the most of every little crumb, and enjoying it.
So when I went into my kitchen today and seen the half a bag of left over hamburger buns, and knew they were going to go bad if I didn’t do something with them soon, dressing came to mind. I hate to waste anything, especially food, so I scrounged around the kitchen to see what I could come up with.I threw the buns in the over to toast.
Once out of the oven I crumbled up the buns and added onions, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and lavender. Yes I said lavender. It grows right along side the rest of my herbs and adds a wonderful kick to my recipes. The aromatics are to die for.
I needed some broth to mix up this dressing so I used the chicken breasts I had thawed in the fridge. I cut them up in chunks and browned them for flavor, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Once they were slightly browned I added about a cup of water to de-glaze all the goodies that were stuck to the pan. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
Then I removed all the chicken from the pan and used the “broth” from the chicken to mix up my dressing.
Along with the broth I poured over my seasoned bread crumbs I added 1 egg and about 1/2 cup of milk. I stirred the mixture lightly, just enough to coat all the crumbs. (Note, if you stir it too much, it will all turn into a big glob.)
It’ll look like a big wet mess of goo until you bake it, but my mouth was watering at this point. The smell of the smashed herbs rising out of this mixture was delicious.
So now the chicken goes back into the original iron skillet I fried and de-glazed it in.
And then I spread the dressing mixture over the top of the chicken. Yes, I said the dressing goes over the top.
Then it all went into the oven on 375 degrees.
The next 35 minutes my house smelled like a spring herb garden with a hint of roasted freshness.
Then out of the oven to rest for a few minutes, it was actually a “pretty” dish that would have made any one of my chef friends proud.
I’m thinking you could probably divide this recipe up before baking, into individual size servings, and cooked them in separate mounds in the pan. Might make serving a bit easier.
From the side you can see the layer of dressing melted into the layer of chicken chunks.
I wondered as I cut into it what this was going to look like plated up. And maybe I should have went with the individual serving size mounds, but much to my surprise I think it came out looking fairly sharp plated up.
And wow, it really did taste as good as it looked and smelled. It came out hearty, full of flavor from the fresh herbs, and was quite filling for a one course meal.
I think the only thing it was missing, was some type of glaze or sauce over the top.
Like maybe a cranberry glaze made from boiling a bag of fresh cranberry’s to death with a cup or so of white sugar, a cup of water, and some lemon zest. Maybe even add a splash of Tabasco or red pepper to the glaze to make a sweet and spicy addition to this dish.Garnish with s spring of fresh mint and wha-lah! a gourmet meal.
Just drizzle the glaze liberally over the top after plating.Hmmmm yes, that sounds about right. Too bad I didn’t have cranberries in the house.
Quite possibly another flavor that would go well with the herb blend in the dressing would be fresh orange juice. I’ll bet the added orange flavor and cranberry glaze would really make this dish pop.
At any rate my Nany would be proud. I used up that bread that would have went to waste and created a smart one pan meal for a few bucks.
*Note: All photos taken for this illustration were shot with my iPhone. (I love my iPhone:-)
Waste not want not….good advise, especially in the kitchen.
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