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Oklahoma dressing is more than OK


    Oklahoma-Style Cornbread Dressing is a two-step process that begins with baking fresh cornbread, then crumbling it and mixing in toast and biscuits, with eggs and seasonings.


    A handwritten card bears Deanne Yates’ family recipe for cornbread stuffing. It was passed down by her mother, Wadene Hays.

Oklahoma-style cornbread stuffing offers a new option for the isle Thanksgiving table. Imagine the bold flavors of sage and black pepper, the sweetness of onions and the appealing crunch of cornbread. It’s so good folks could conceivably ignore the Thanksgiving turkey.

“I didn’t know there was any other kind of dressing before I moved to Hawaii,” said Deanna Yates of Hawaii Loa Ridge. She and husband Jim moved here 23 years ago.

The couple grew up in the town of Duncan in southern Oklahoma, and this dressing was always served at their family dinners. Yates’ mother, Wadene Hays, did not know how to cook when she got married and learned the recipe from her mother-in-law.

Since turkey dinner is the favorite meal of the Yates’ two daughters, Mallory and Allyson, Yates prepares the special meal with all the fixings four or five times a year, not just at Thanksgiving.

It is on the menu for Christmas, New Year’s Eve supper and any special time the family is together, as both daughters now live in Chicago.

The tasty side dish — called a dressing if cooked outside the turkey and stuffing if inside the bird — steals the show by including the favored herb for a Thanksgiving meal, sage. It is a crucial part of the family’s Thanksgiving parade of carbs.

Yates’ version is not difficult to prepare, but uses three different breads to create its moist yet crunchy consistency. It starts with a dry, crunchy cornbread that is much less sweet than the cakelike version prevalent in Hawaii. To that, toasted bread and biscuits are added. The combination works well.

The cornbread recipe calls for buttermilk, but if Yates doesn’t have it, she improvises: She adds vinegar to whole or 2 percent milk and lets it sit for 10 minutes to curdle. Since she rarely cooks with vegetable oil, she prefers to keep shortening in the refrigerator and melts it in the microwave. A cast-iron skillet is her preferred pan as it results in a crisp crust.

To relieve your stress on the big day tomorrow, start today. Bake the cornbread and ready-to-bake biscuits, and toast the bread. Assemble the rest of the recipe, including white onion (Yates prefers it over yellow), celery, egg, salt and ground black pepper. Either add juices from the roasted turkey or use chicken broth.

Using a potato masher, blend all the ingredients before baking. In the last 10 minutes, Yates breaks up the casserole and continues baking, as she prefers her dressing on the dry side.

Add this savory cornbread dressing to your Thanksgiving repertoire and celebrate Oklahoma — O-K!

Yates Family Oklahoma-Style Cornbread Dressing

  • >> Cornbread:
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk or milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar, set aside for 10 minutes
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted shortening

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Add egg and buttermilk. Mix until thoroughly blended.

Pour vegetable oil or shortening into 8-inch cast-iron skillet or cake pan. Swirl around bottom and sides to coat, then pour excess into cornbread mixture. Mix in oil and pour into skillet. Bake until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Can be made 1 day ahead.

>> Dressing:

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • Cornbread
  • 2 slices white or whole-wheat toast
  • 4 small ready-to-bake biscuits, baked
  • 1 extra large egg, stirred
  • 3 stalks celery, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 white onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons dried ground sage
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 4 cups of turkey drippings and/or chicken broth

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch pan with vegetable oil spray. Crumble cornbread, toast and biscuits into pan. Add egg, celery, onion, sage, salt and pepper. Add turkey drippings and chicken broth. Mash with potato masher. Mixture should have consistency of a very thick soup.

Bake uncovered about 35 minutes. Stir top to expose wet dressing. Bake 10 more minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 8.

Note: This recipe is easily doubled for a larger group.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 290 calories, 12 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,700 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 8 g protein

Lynette Lo Tom is interested in how you make old-fashioned food. Reach her at or 275-3004.

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