From the Kitchen Table
Our kitchen table is the bosom of our home. It gathers everyone and everything to it.
Lacking a formal dining room, my kitchen and dining table are in one large room. We never use the front door. We traipse in through the mud room, deposit part of the load and continue into the dining and kitchen area.
The table becomes a repository for mail, groceries, four-wheeler parts, anything and everything.
Our table is a beautiful workhorse made by our daughter Kate in high school shop. It is tongue and groove maple from the old gym floor in Kaycee. It is four feet wide and 6.5 feet long. It holds eight comfortably and swells to many at holidays with the addition of a card table or two. It hosts the neighborly poker games in the winter and becomes the craft table for my last-minute Do-It-Yourself Christmas gifts.
It has a permanent black dot from making calf tags during calving.
I believe most ranch homes have the same sort of kitchen table. My husband has an office, but however many times I stack the bills and put them in there, invariably, most of it comes back out to be worked on.
The busy season of shipping and fall work is winding down, and I have even had the table clean once and put out the “horseshoe” pumpkin, welded from horseshoes by the Kaycee FFA chapter. In a month or so, that will be replaced by my Christmas holiday decoration, no doubt surrounded by the piles of seasonal catalogs.
I am writing from my kitchen table, looking out at the grand view of the Middle Fork of the Powder River, the meadows, the bare cottonwoods and the pine ridge behind them. I am fortunate.
The holiday season is arriving. That means cooking and preparing festive meals, shopping for gifts and doing the last of the spring cleaning. There are also duties like getting the bucks out into the sheep, breaking the ice, feeding a little here and there and hoping for not too much winter – yet.
One of my favorite things about this time of year is cornbread dressing.
My parents migrated to Casper in the 50s from Oklahoma. Cornbread dressing is what I grew up with.
I love all stuffing. I think it’s the only reason to cook turkey. This is my cornbread dressing ritual.
Cook the cornbread the night before, in a cast iron skillet. Cut up and let dry overnight, after testing with plenty of butter and honey. Early on Turkey Day, put the neck bone in a pot of water and simmer for an hour, or as much as time allows.
Break up your white bread that you’ve been saving scraps of in the freezer or just use the packaged stuffing. Dice up a little onion and celery, making sure to get some chopped up celery leaves. This is to your taste.
Douse with plenty of ground sage and poultry seasoning. Mix up well. Add a cube of butter to the turkey neck broth, and when it melts, pour over the dry dressing mix. I don’t like it too wet, so stir and get the liquid well dispersed. Salt the cavity of the turkey and spoon the dressing in. Be careful not to pack the dressing too much. Leftover dressing can be spooned into a buttered, oven-ready pan, dotted with butter, covered with foil and baked about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Fill up the turkey neck pan again with water and simmer all the rest of the day. This will be the broth for your gravy.
Baste the turkey often during the last hour, and be sure to squirt some on top of the dressing. This is very important. It browns the dressing, and this is the choice spoon of testing that the person in charge gets to eat.
SOUTHERN CORN BREAD
1 ½ cups corn meal. I like to substitute ½ c. of Bob’s Red Mill coarse grind corn meal.
½ c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon soda
3 Tbsp. baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 stick butter
3 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Mix dry ingredients. Add buttermilk and eggs. Melt butter in a 10½ inch cast iron skillet in the stove. When melted, pour into ingredients and blend.
Pour back into skillet and bake for about 18 minutes.
Lynn Harlan is the Wyoming Livestock Roundup’s newest columnist, and this is the debut of her column, “From the Kitchen Table.” Harlan lives on a ranch outside Kaycee.