Thanksgiving’s so nice I have it twice

Isn’t it a shame to only have your absolute favorites once a year? Cornbread dressing, all kinds of ooey gooey casseroles, decadent gravy…I could go on and on. And in November I do go on and on every year — once at my mother in law’s and once at good old 5117.

Every year Bunny hosts an over-the-top Friendsgiving for about 40-50 people, some of whom know each other and some not. The ice-breaking question is always, “How do you know Susan?” She is the common denominator and how people have crossed her path over the years is sometimes surprising.

Yes, we all wear name tags. We’re dorky like that. And Bunny insists that everyone sit with someone they’ve never met before. She will give you the stink eye if she notices any violations of that rule.

Before everyone digs in, Bunny explains the rules of the buffet line. Since Bunny has spent the better part of two months assembling volumes of casseroles she gets to make the rules, of course. Really, there’s only one. Use both sides of serving tables to form the lines. It takes awhile for 50 people to make it through the line. Or lines. Yes, lines. I know the rule.

Oh, I forgot. There’s one more rule. Nothing exceeds like excess because, after all, we might starve. Southern cooks know that if one broccoli rice cheese casserole is good, four are better. And there needs to be lots of leftovers because a large contingent of guests is made up of graduate students in the University of Tennessee Department of Music.

And here they come. Leftovers are like gold to these guys. So much so that Bunny always provides lots and lots of take-out containers.

So Friendsgiving is a huge undertaking and it’s one of my favorite holidays of the year. It happens the first or second week of November so any guests who have family plans on the actual Thanksgiving Day aren’t conflicted.

And that brings me to Thanksgiving 2.0. I still have to make the Chapin family’s greatest hits every year, just in miniature for King Daddy and I (Noah is now in Vienna where Thanksgiving is considered an odd celebration of, basically, colonialism).

For me, it has to be Chapin dressing. For Mark it has to be ham and scalloped oysters.

We do not set the table. Many years we do not get out of our jammies. Grazing is encouraged and leftover ham gets turned into ham salad the next day (grind ham in the processor and add Duke’s and Dijon mustard — so much better than the ham salad at Honey Baked Ham).

So here’s the recipe for the dressing. Enjoy.

Chapin Family Dressing

16 cups soft bread cubes, including crusts

1 cup diced onion

2 cups diced celery

½ cup chopped parsley

1 cup melted butter

2 cups chicken broth

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

2 teaspoons crushed sage leaves

½ teaspoon pepper

Put bread cubes in large bowl. Mix the diced onion, celery and parsley together in a separate bowl. Mix the salt, poultry seasoning, sage and pepper together in a small bowl. Add the seasonings to the vegetables and mix well. Add the melted butter to the bread cubes and distribute evenly. Add the chicken stock and then the vegetable/seasoning mixture.

Spoon into a loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.

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