This could be one of my favorite dishes to make, even though I make it only three or four times per year. This recipe is an adaptation of my great aunt Meme’s cornbread dressing, the proper name for stuffing in the Deep South. Meme served turkey with dressing more often than just Thanksgiving as it was an affordable option for her Sunday “dinners”. These “dinners” were served at 2:00pm, as opposed to supper, which is served in the evening. Damn, now I’m thinking about fried shrimp dinners at Meme’s … but that’s another blog.
Meme made dressing with 100% cornbread. For years as a child I loved the way it smelled, but didn’t like the way it looked and refused to eat it. I vividly remember the day I finally agreed to taste it, and proclaimed, “It tastes as good as it smells!” One reason this is such a fun dish to prepare is the unbeatable aroma of sautéing (or sweating) onions and celery in butter… among my favorite all-time smells. My mama, Mary Jo, having married into a Midwestern family, gave it more of a stuffing texture by using half cornbread and half white bread. As I’ve messed with the recipe over the years, I’ve landed on replacing white sandwich bread with French bread.
The key to good dressing is plenty of moisture, which allows you to bake it to temperature without over-drying. I no longer stuff the turkey with it, as I prefer to stuff the turkey with aromatics and root vegetables. (Plus it is damn good as a stand-alone dish).
- One loaf of quality French bread (I’m a fan of the local Zeppole)
- One pan of prepared corn bread (follow the recipe on the back of the Quaker corn meal box – I use bacon grease rather than vegetable oil and slightly less sugar than called for – dressing should be more savory than sweet)
- Four stalks celery finely chopped
- One large yellow onion finely chopped
- 4 to 6 cups chicken or turkey stock (if you’re not making your own, the best substitute in my book, is Better Than Bouillon Reduced Sodium – which can be found at Costco)
- ½ cup rubbed Dalmatian sage
- 1 tbs dried thyme
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste (depending on how robust your stock is)
- 2 large eggs
- 4 tbs unsalted butter
In a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat, sauté chopped celery and onion until soft and almost caramelized.
Meanwhile, cube the French bread and toast in a 350 degree oven until brown, crunchy and aromatic (about 20 minutes). Let cool and place in very large mixing bowl.
Break apart baked cornbread and add to bread cubes in mixing bowl.
Beat the two eggs in a small bowl and set aside
Sprinkle the sage cracked pepper and garlic powder over the bread mixture
Add the eggs and half of the stock
Mix with your hands and keep adding stock until mixture very wet but not soupy
Transfer to a buttered baking dish top with a few pads of butter and cover or foil
An hour before dinner put in 325 degree oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees (about 40 minutes)