As the Thanksgiving orders begin to come in at Miss Sophie’s, I can’t help but reflect upon the early years of the business and how overwhelming the holiday orders were. I, rather naively, created a package deal the first year we were in business. At the time (13 years ago), not many stores were offering Thanksgiving dinner packages, so we were unknowingly on the “cutting edge.” I just figured there were people out there who needed help with Thanksgiving, and I thought I could make a couple of dollars doing that for them.
When the orders started coming in, I was quickly overwhelmed and feared that my small team and I might not be able to fill the orders in time. We filled them all, but we had worked some ridiculous hours! The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I worked until 3:30 a.m., went home, slept a couple of hours and was back at the store by 6 a.m. I was putting the icing on the last cake when the customers started arriving.
There was one problem with my idea that I hadn’t considered. The package included cornbread dressing. I didn’t have a recipe for cornbread dressing. I had watched Mama make it for years and had made it myself a couple of times, but I had no gauge as to proportions. We always just mixed it until it “looked right.” Suddenly, I was faced with making 120 to 150 lbs. of it! I muddled through it, prayed over it a whole lot and got it done. I was also able to create a recipe so that future generations will have it.
I also learned quickly in those early years that not all dressings are created equal, and Mama’s way of making it was unique in many ways. Many of my customers requested sage dressing. The only experience I had with sage dressing was the one Thanksgiving my Aunt Inez from Kansas City made Thanksgiving lunch for everyone. She proudly produced a turkey stuffed with dressing with so much sage in it that it was green. Trust me when I tell you that green dressing coming out of a turkey cavity is not a pretty sight. I accommodated my customer’s requests, but I cautiously added it a little bit at a time lest it turn green.
Like many things that are passed down from kitchen to kitchen, generation to generation, cornbread dressing doesn’t really have just one recipe that can be adapted. It’s as different from house to house as we are. The types of bread and seasonings vary greatly. There’s also a dispute about the gravy. Giblet Gravy or Turkey Gravy? In our family, it’s always been Giblet Gravy and lots of it!
I’m now in charge of our families’ Thanksgiving meal. I pay homage to the past generations by not changing the foods. I do, however, throw in some new things to see what they think. I tried offering homemade cranberry sauce, but they preferred the canned, jellied sauce. This year, I’m going to offer a Mixed Berry Compote for the cream cheese pies. The cream cheese pies are a must at all holidays and they are always accompanied by canned blueberry pie filling and cherry pie filling. I think if I can get them to try it, they’ll prefer this compote over the canned stuff. Wish me luck!
I always am hesitant to share the recipes I developed for dressing and gravy the way my family has always made it, because I’m pretty sure your family made it different. Unfortunately, some people won’t share their recipe and it dies along with them. So, if you weren’t lucky enough to be given a recipe, my family welcomes you to try ours, and we hope you have as much fun celebrating Thanksgiving as we have for so many years!
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to sophiesmarketplace.com.
• 5 cups crumbled cornbread
• 2 ½ cups of crumbled biscuits
• ¾ cup onion, chopped
• ½ cup celery, chopped
• 5 cups good chicken broth
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth, celery and onions to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine biscuit and cornbread. Pour broth over bread mixture and stir well. Mixture should be the consistency of soupy oatmeal. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
4. Pour into a greased 9X13 casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve with giblet gravy.
• 4 cups of homemade chicken stock or broth
• 1 can cream of chicken soup
• 4-5 boiled eggs, diced
• 1 ½ cups cooked chicken or turkey giblets*, chopped or 1 cup chopped turkey or chicken
• 3 tablespoons cold water
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
1. Add the stock, soup, boiled eggs and giblets to a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or longer if desired. If you prefer a thicker gravy, bring the mixture back up to a boil.
2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine cold water and cornstarch. Slowly stir cornstarch mixture into gravy and boil, stirring constantly, for 1 or 2 minutes.
3. *Giblets are the heart, liver and gizzard usually stuffed into the cavity of the turkey. You can also use chicken giblets to make the gravy. To cook the giblets, cover with water in a saucepan, salt and pepper and cook for 20-30 minutes.
Cream Cheese Pies with Berry Compote
Cream Cheese Pie:
• 1 graham cracker pie crust
• 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 1 can sweetened condensed milk
• 1/3 cup lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Combine cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla to a mixing bowl and combine using an electric mixer.
2. Pour into pie crust and chill for 8 hours or up to 5 days.
Fresh Berry Compote:
• 1 cup fresh orange juice
• 2 tablespoon cornstarch
• 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier* or other orange liqueur
• ¼ cup honey
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 3 cups fresh mixed berries
1. Combine cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of the orange juice in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Combine remaining orange juice, Grand Marnier, honey and sugar in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a constant simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
3. Add berries and return to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, then slowly add cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring continuously until compote is thick and glossy 1-2 minutes.
4. Taste and add a bit more honey, if needed. The amount of honey will depend on your taste and the sweetness of your orange juice.
5. Can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 1 week.