• Tommy Centola

Dressing up a big meal

Christmas is here. I know all of the presents are bought and wrapped. It’s time to concentrate on the big meal. Whether it’s a turkey, ham, pork or rib roast, it’s the accompanying dishes that complete the meal. I always like to include a couple of dressings with the big meal.

Often I am asked, what’s the difference between dressing and stuffing. Mainly, it’s all about how it is cooked. Stuffing is obviously cooked inside the turkey or turducken. Dressing is a free standing dish. Today, I want to share with you a couple of dressings for your holiday table. The first one is a cornbread based dressing, Andouille & Crawfish Cornbread Dressing. The second is a traditional version of Oyster Dressing. Let’s head to the kitchen.

Here’s a twist on my traditional cornbread dressing. I normally use chicken as my protein component. Here I use two very common New Orleans ingredients, andouille and crawfish. It’s a great way to spice up your Christmas dinner.

Andouille & Crawfish Cornbread Dressing

3 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix (mix & bake as directed)

1 bag of Pepperidge Farm Herb Season Classic Stuffing

2 medium onions (chopped fine)

5 stalks of celery (chopped fine)

1 pound Louisiana crawfish tails

1 pack of andouille sausage, medium chop

1 stick of butter

64 ounces chicken stock, divided

Creole seasoning to taste

Once cornbread is baked & cooled, place in a large zip lock bag & crumble into pieces. In a large heavy pot, melt the stick of butter over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion & celery & sauté until soft. Add crawfish tails & chopped andouille & cook on medium heat until completely heated through & bubbling. Remove from heat. Add half of the cornbread & the bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix. Pour about half of stock into mixture & begin mixing everything together. If it’s to dry & it probably will be, add stock as you mix. Add the rest of the crumbled cornbread and Creole seasoning. Mix & taste to adjust seasoning. Continue mixing & adding stock until the stuffing is moist. Add more Creole seasoning if necessary. Scoop out into 2 - 9”x 9” pans. You can freeze & thaw the day before. If cooking that day, place in a 350 ℉ oven & bake for about an hour. If you are cooking from cold it will take about an hour & a half to bake. You want it heated completely through & golden brown.

Oysters always finds their way to the Christmas dinner table. Whether it’s a version of Oysters Mosca or Oyster Dressing, December is the perfect time of the year for oysters. Here is a very traditional dressing that is always sure to please.

Oyster Dressing

2 teaspoons butter

1 pint oysters reserving the liquor they come in

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups onions, chopped

1 cup green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

1 cup chicken stock

¼ cup green onions, chopped

4 cups French bread cut into 1-inch cubes

1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and Creole seasoning and sauté for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the bay leaves, garlic and parsley, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock; cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the green onions, oyster liquor and the bread cubes. Stir to mix well and remove from the heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread mixture with the oysters and cheese. Stir to mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until bubbly and golden brown. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

For me, Christmas is all about family. There is no one I enjoy cooking for than my family or people who I consider my family. Put a little extra love in your Christmas cooking. Trust me, it won’t go unnoticed. Merry Christmas from my wife Peggy and I!

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