Pappaw’s sweet potatoes

So Pappaw was Big Daddy’s grandfather.  His daddy’s daddy. He was a very big man in stature (very tall) but he had a meek, quiet demeanor about him that made him so lovable.  He had a way of laughing that was absolutely endearing and boyish.  He was a bossy fellow at times and yet always remained humble.  How that is even possible I don’t know.  That man was something else.  He was 94 when he passed away last Thanksgiving day and he is still missed so much.  He was a wonderful cook.  I spent a good bit of time with him and he taught me quite a bit.  I can still remember when his friend would bring him a big ole box of sweet potatoes.  Boy was he ever proud of those babies.  They were a certain kind and I cannot remember the name…I just know he would get very excited.  After he passed away, Big Daddy went up to the Lodge with his brother and brought back his sweet potato pot. That thing is probably one of my most treasured possessions.  But what I treasure more are the memories of the time when Pappaw would stand in front of the stove and cook his delicious sweet potatoes.  These sweet potatoes are in many ways just like Pappaw was…sweet, simple but yet just enough.  These sweet potatoes are not bothered that they are simple…they rather it that way.  They are equally at home on your holiday plate next to turkey and dressing as they are next to pork chops.  My precious mother in law took over making these when Pappaw finally relinquished his role well past 90 and she does a great job.  Still, Pappaw is missed.  We make them very much like Pappaw, but still…he is missed.  My kids absolutely love this side dish and request for nearly every holiday meal.  They are as much of a staple at our house as Momou’s mac and cheese.  I have always been a candied yams with marshmallows kind of gal because that is what I was raised on.  I still love them and I cannot promise you I won’t be making a small dish of these as well on Thanksgiving day, but Pappaw’s sweet potatoes are really something special.  I hope you will try them and smile when you think of Pappaw.  Such a great man who made such great sweet potatoes.  Pappaw…another one of the many blessings in my life.

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Pappaw listens intently as his great grand tells him all about it…

Pappaw’s Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

2 Tablespoons vanilla

2 sticks of butter (yes 2 sticks)

2 1/2 cups of sugar (Pappaw would say make sure the package says Pure Cane Sugar…I always do)

1 heaping Tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions

In a big ole skillet or pot, melt your butter over medium heat. Add your peeled and sliced potatoes to the melted butter.  Stir in the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.  Make sure the potatoes are coated with the butter, sugar mixture.  Over low fire, with the lid on, cook the potatoes until they are tender.  Stir the potatoes almost constantly to ensure they don’t stick.  When you can stick a slice with a fork and it breaks off, they are good and done, about 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Serve hot.  Repeat every time you want a good heaping helping of down home cooking.  Oh and Pappaw always liked to serve these with purple hulls and  cornbread.

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Pappaw’s trusty sweet potato skillet…lots of delicious food cooked in there. I am so honored to have it.

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Momee’s cornbread dressing

I have already mentioned my feelings about Momee’s cornbread dressing but let me say this again…as far I am concerned this is the BEST cornbread dressing recipe in the world.  The woman who gave me the recipe was beyond the best. Momee was my mom’s mom.  Her name was Beulah Mae and she was beautiful and funny and kind and so many things all rolled into one.  I am so blessed to have called her my grandmother and know that part of her lives on in me and in my kids.  She was a diva before I ever heard anyone called a diva.  She was the hardest working woman I ever knew and always knew how to look on the bright side in any situation.  She passed away in 2002 and I still miss her every day.  But she wouldn’t like me dwelling on her absence and would fuss at me for even mentioning that, so let me stay focused.  She believed in looking ahead you, not behind.  I would like to believe she is the one who ingrained that in me.   She was a strong, feisty spirit who lives on through  my sisters and I, my cousins, their kiddos, my kiddos, my nieces and nephews, and every single time I make this most delicious cornbread dressing, something I know she would really like.  I actually had the foresight to ask her to write down her recipe many years ago and I have a framed copy hanging in my kitchen.  She is never very far from me.  When I am running around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off, I can so hear her whispering to me “ma petite (which sounded like mop tit and my sisters and I thought that was what she was saying for years  until she corrected us lol!) calm down.  Stand up straight my baby.  Smile.  You’ll get this all done.  Take your time baby.”  That thought makes me tear up and smile at the same time.  So if you are looking for a wonderful cornbread dressing to make this Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years (we had had it at all 3…thank God) give this one a try.  Momee would like that.

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Such a beautiful lady…inside and out…

Momee’s Cornbread Dressing

Ingredients

1/2 stick of butter

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 boxes of corn muffin mix

1 onion, diced

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 large bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 bundle of green onions (I say at least 5 or 6) chopped, green parts only *

salt and pepper to taste

sage, to taste

3 or 4 boiled eggs, sliced

1 pack of turkey wings (I usually have the best luck finding these at Kroger, in the frozen meat section)

Directions

Make up your corn muffin mix according to directions.  So to prepare three boxes, just add 3 of whatever 1 box calls for.  Got it?  Now, I am sure I don’t have to specify which kind of corn muffin mix I use…but just in case…Jiffy my friends.  I am not even sure there is any other kind.  Bake your cornbread in a prepared 9 x 13 pan.  Bake at 350 until done.  Set it aside.  (I like to do this at least the night before so that the cornbread can stale a bit before I put the dressing together.)

Fill a stock pot halfway full with water.  Add about 3 tsp. salt to the water.  Add your turkey wings and bring to a boil.  Boil until very tender and the turkey meat just falls off the bone.  Remove the turkey wings from the water and put them on a plate.* *Do NOT Discard the stock!!! Set aside the wings and let them cool.  When they are cool enough to handle, take all the meat off of the bone.  Discard the bones.

** SAVE the water.  Do NOT drain.  This is your stock for the dressing or will be when we are done with it!  Keep the stock at a low simmer until you need it.  Just put  the stockpot on a back burner and set the heat to low and just let it simmer away.  We will come back to that.

In a skillet, melt butter and then saute the celery, bell pepper, onion, green onions and garlic over medium heat until “wilted” (that is a Beulah Mae term..this means until tender). Add a pinch or two of kosher salt and a sprinkle of black pepper.  You can also add a little bit of Tony’s at this point too. *my best friend, Lolly, taught me to cut the green onions by using a pair of kitchen shears.  Her mother in law, Mrs. Fern, taught her this trick and she passed it on to me.  I am so grateful.  That trick has made things much easier as green onions can be hard to cut with a knife.  Hope that helps!!

To your simmering stock, add kosher salt and pepper to taste.  You want it to have a good flavor to it, but not too salty.  I will tell you what I do.  I add a tablespoon of turkey bouillon base to this stock to give a deep flavor.  It normally comes out perfectly.  My dear friend, Lisa, turned me on to bouillon base a few years ago for my gravy making, and I have never looked back.  It can usually be found near the cans and boxes of broth, and other soups on the very top shelf.  It is in a short wide glass jar and is some “good stuff” as Lisa is fond of saying.  Anyway, whisk in tablespoon of this base to your simmering broth.  You may want to use a little more, depending on your family’s tastes.  It is definitely optional, but you won’t regret it.

Now, you should have some cooked cornbread, sauteed veggies, some stock and some turkey meat.  Ya’ll ready?  Ok…now I take my big ole silver bowl and I crumble the cornbread into the bowl.  Now, add your sauteed veggies to this.  Now, add your turkey meat.  Ok, get your hands in this bowl, and mix it all up really well.  That’s it!  You’ve got it!!  Beulah would be so proud!!  Ok, now, little by little you are going to ladle some of your stock into the cornbread mixture.  Ladle until this is the consistency of cream of wheat.  It is not too moist, but not too dry.  Use your judgement.  You just want to make sure that it does not dry out when it cooks.  Now, season with rubbed sage to taste.  I really cannot tell ya’ll how much sage I use.  When I make my dressing in a few days, I will try to update this with an approximate amount.  I would definitely say at least 1 1/2 tablespoons of the stuff.  What makes this dressing unique is the sweetness of the corn muffin mixed combined with the savoriness of the sage so don’t hold back, unless you dislike sage…in that case, you may not like this.  🙂  Once you are satisfied with the moistness and savoriness of your dressing,  add this mixture/concoction to your prepared 9 x 13 pan that you prepared by spraying with cooking spray or rubbed butter all over.  Now lay your boiled egg slices all over the top of your dressing.  I rather it with the eggs.  I am not sure where this came from or if it is a Southern thing, but I love boiled eggs on top of my dressing.  Some of my cajun mama facebook friends and I had a discussion about this and it seemed pretty common to add boiled eggs to your dressing.  Of course, if this is not your thing, just omit this step.  Also, if you find the adding boiled eggs to your dressing odd please feel free to leave me a comment.  I would like to hear from you.

Ok, now you cover your pan of dressing with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes.  It may take about 50 minutes or so, depending on your oven.  I would definitely check it after 30 minutes or so.  Once the dressing is almost done enough, you can uncover it so it gets nicely browned.  Cook it about 5-10 minutes uncovered then remove from oven and let cool.

Get ready to slap hands and “tasting spoons” away from the pan.  My cousin Robin and I would sneak as many bites as we could before Momee noticed and shooed us out of the kitchen.  Momee’s kitchen on Thanksgiving morning was warm, full of love, and smelled like cornbread, turkey and sage.  Some of my best memories were made in there.  Every Thanksgiving just about, Robin and I manage to text each other and say “hey making Momee’s dressing and thinking about you.”  I think Momee would love that.  No, I know she would.  I hope your kitchen is full of warmth, good smells, and lots of love on Thanksgiving morning.  May you have many blessings to count and many memories to be shared and made.  Love from Cajun mama’s kitchen to yours. ~AMB

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I cherish this almost more than I do the picture above.  It is like she is right here with me.