The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Secret's out on First United dressing recipe


November 2, 2017

After 63 years, it’s hard to have any secrets.

But as the folks at First United Methodist Church, 200 S. Ave. C, Portales, throw their 64th annual turkey dinner today, I’m going to spill two.

First, the 2,000-plus diners who come to this annual event never get to eat what is arguably the best part of the meal.

It’s the crispy, crusty, toasted bits of dressing that are created when a little too much time passes in between stirrings of the 32 roasters of dressing that will be served today in the fellowship hall from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

These crunchy almost-burnt ends are — alone — a good reason to volunteer to work in the kitchen. There is almost always a plate of them on the counter. If you see a scuffle break out among workers, it’s because the supply is running low.

The second secret: That delectable dressing is made each year by one of the most exclusive clubs in eastern New Mexico in the kitchen of … no joking … the First Baptist Church.

Yup, it’s true. Those great vats of peppery, sage dressing are concocted in the Baptist fellowship hall across the street by a team of guys headed up by Gary Creighton, who learned the tricks of the trade from none other than the legendary Bo King.

Creighton said he helped make dressing for the first time in 1989, back when it was a two-man operation — “just Bo and me.”

He thinks Bo’s wife, Frankye, “put the strong-arm” on him to start, a statement easily believed by all who knew her. When Frankye “volun-told” you to do something, answering “no” was not an option.

In the beginning, Creighton remembers that he and Bo mixed the dressing in a plastic baby bathtub, batch by batch, in the tiny kitchen of the Veterans of Foreign Wars building.

When First Baptist Church built its fellowship hall, the operation moved into that much larger and closer kitchen space. Dressing preparation also, over time, upgraded to giant plastic tubs, and Creighton added more of his compadres to the mixing crew.

What makes this dressing so good?

“I could give you the recipe,” Creighton says, “but it’s for 2,500 people.”

It starts with 88 pans each of cornbread and biscuits, but the key is two ingredients used abundantly: Black pepper and butter.

Creighton said he’s occasionally told he’s gone too far, but one of Bo King’s rules was, “There’s no such thing as too much black pepper.”

As for the butter, Creighton says with a grin, “If you give a guy enough butter, I can make ’em eat my boots.”

I’m happy to report there are no boots on the menu, and tickets are available all day at the door. See you there.

Betty Williamson could make an entire meal from burnt ends … and has. You may reach her at:


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