HOT DISH: A Heartfelt Thanksgiving

And Celebrating Shows by Hank, Loretta and Reba

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at

Don’t Forget to Be Thankful
It’s the season to be thankful. Time to think of those we are thankful for and remember those no longer with us. Since I am CMT’s woman who cooks, I naturally think of food and Southern Fried Flicks. My first guest on my television show was my dear friend, Brad Paisley, who dug my homemade banana pudding as much as the late Shel Silverstein, who named it world’s best banana pudding two decades before. My thoughts wander back to Tompall Glaser. Tompall bragged on my cornbread. I wish Tompall was well enough to eat cornbread and other rations from my table this year.

I recall the Thanksgiving all the Dr. Hook staff celebrated together and redheaded Terry Smith ate half of one of my pumpkin pies without taking a breath. Six years ago, author Robert Hicks downed five pieces of dressing at Thanksgiving dinner, sat down on the sofa and promptly fell asleep!

I’ll never forget Ricky Skaggs eating collards out of the pot they were cooked in, Lonestar chowing down on my chicken chili, Jeff Cook of Alabama digging ham and heavenly potatoes, the Grascals going for second helpings of chicken dumplings or the late, great Bill Monroe reaching for a third slice of my homemade coconut pie or a third helping of peach cobbler.

Down through the years, Lou Rawls smacked his lips over my fried chicken, and the great Waylon Jennings did like my crowder peas. Paul Overstreet still talks about my homemade giblet gravy and so does the great chef Emeril Lagasse. Ellen DeGeneres dug my sweet potatoes. Little Jimmy Dickens devoured my salmon patties and took some home with him.

The Whites and Whispering Bill Anderson liked everything I cooked. Why, Kellie Pickler and Katie Cook still brag on my pinto beans which makes me laugh big-time. Really, I am truly thankful for my life and great friends. And at this season, it behooves all of us to think of those who straightened our road this year.

When cancer hit me back in April, Joe Galante and Renee Bell were such a blessing to me — as was Fletcher Foster, Martha Hume and my family. Right off the bat, these people knew what had to be done and they did it. Nobody can ever make me believe they were anything less than angels sent to my bedside. I am so thankful for these precious people God sent to take care of me when I could not take care of myself.

To me, this is what Thanksgiving is all about. Being thankful. And I am so thankful for each and every person mentioned here who touched my life. I am so richly blessed.

Did You Miss Hank the Giant?
CMT outdid themselves with the Giants: Hank Williams Jr. show. Hank deserved the kudos he received from his friends — folks like Alan Jackson who reached for the heart with his version of “The Blues Man.”

It was touching to hear Kid Rock admit without totally saying it that Hank had made him a better man. Why, Hank is the man who convinced Kid to stop smoking cigarettes. That’s a big one right there.

Seeing Waylon’s son Shooter and Hank’s daughter Holly perform their dads’ hit — wow! Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Steven Tyler, Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson and Lynyrd Skynyrd never sang their own songs better than they sang Hank’s hits.

The whole world must realize by now what a great songwriter Hank is. And if you carelessly missed that show, be sure and watch the reruns. It is a CMT masterpiece — one of their best ever.

2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour
Superstar Reba McEntire has announced that she and Kelly Clarkson will join voices, sharing one band and one stage for a limited time in 2008. The tour kicks off in Dayton, Ohio, Jan. 17 and will cover 15 markets. Fans can expect to hear each act’s biggest hits and hear them perform live together for the first time.

When Loretta’s On
Loretta Lynn was ’on’ at the Opry recently, and when that lady is on, there ain’t nobody better. She sang a couple hits including “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and a few gospel songs and never missed a lick. When Loretta’s good, she’s really good — ain’t a one of those girl singers can touch her.

Carrie Underwood Is Sizzling
On the heels of her CMA win, Carrie Underwood, decked out in a flattering short, white dress, took home three trophies from the American Music Awards. The fan-voted awards for favorite country female artist, favorite country album for Some Hearts and the coveted all-genre interactive T-Mobile Text-In award went to Underwood. More great news for Carrie when her co-written single, “So Small,” chart-topped — her first No. 1 as a songwriter.

Trace on Trump’s Lineup
Trace Adkins will be among the all-star lineup on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice premiering Jan. 3 on NBC. Fourteen contestants including Trace will not be vying for a job with Trump, but the celebs will be working toward a greater goal, as they raise over a million dollars for their various charities. Other contestants include Gene Simmons of Kiss, former Playboy calendar girl Tiffany Fallon (who is married to Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney), actress Marilu Henner and even Omarosa is back.

Garth Does Not Disappoint
Nothing but adjectives — unbelievable, awesome, incredible, great, wonderful — described Garth Brooks’ nine performances in Kansas City. Seeing Garth live is an experience and one that I’m sorry I missed this year. You can depend on Garth for a great show. I hear his three daughters saw the final concert. Don’t you know those girls are proud of their daddy who has more fun than anyone in the audience. When they’re in their 40s, those girls will really appreciate their dad giving up performing to raise them.

Charlie Daniels’ Early Present
During the 10th annual Christmas for Kids at the Ryman Auditorium Nov. 19, Charlie Daniels was surprised with a Christmas present given to him onstage by Martina McBride. The card inside read, “Thank you, Charlie, for all you’ve done to make Christmas wishes come true for thousands of children through the years. Now it’s time to make a wish come true for you, too. You’re officially invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Merry Christmas!”

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chicken Spaghetti Bake.