November 24, 2009
My Mom’s side of the family makes the best cornbread dressing, hands down – at least according to my taste buds. And yes, we say dressing not stuffing, we’re from the South. It’s so interesting how different regions and families have different food traditions for the same dish. I recently discovered that some folks have only seen dressing served mashed/fluffed or in a mound rather than in squares the way my family and nearly everyone in my parents’ hometown serves it.
So what makes our dressing so good? I believe it’s due to the variety of flavors that come from the sage and various herbs in the poultry seasoning. The sweet cornbread base, as well as the moisture from just the right amount of delicious broth are also key. These are all common, basic ingredients in dressing, but there’s still just something special to me about our dressing!
Perhaps it’s the nostalgia from having that same great consistent taste no matter whether it’s my grandmother’s or great aunt’s dressing, which we devoured several times a day for several days each Thanksgiving and Christmas years ago, or whether it’s from the modern kitchens of my aunts and mother. Overall, I think our memory of how it’s supposed to taste is what allows us to get it right every time.
Despite the culinary tradition our cornbread has in our family, I made the bold move to change it up just a little bit by adding some diced apple and chopped pecans (fall flavors I love). I also made my cornbread base from scratch instead of relying on the ole’ handy Jiffy Mix.
Usually we make our dressing by taste and look alone (no measurements), but as I made my version to share with you, I measured most of the ingredients. Still, you have to rely on your own judgment to get the seasoning just how you like it. That’s the great part about cooking — the flexibility to come up with your own flavor traditions. Enjoy!
Apple-Pecan Cornbread Dressing
1 eight inch square pan of sweet cornbread (recipe below)
3 -4 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix (regular, not cornbread based)
1 celery stalk, very finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
3/4 cup diced, peeled apple (about 1/2 large apple)
1 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
1-1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
2-1/2 cups turkey or chicken broth (plus more to drizzle)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Crumble cornbread in a very large bowl. Add stuffing mix, celery, onion, sage, poultry seasoning, diced apple, pecans, salt and pepper; mix well. Add melted butter and broth and mix well again. Taste the dressing mixture for flavor and add additional salt, pepper or poultry seasoning if needed.
Spoon mixture into two lightly greased 8″ square baking pans and smooth evenly. Bake for 45 minutes or until top of dressing is golden brown and an inserted knife comes out clean.
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8″ square baking pan with butter or cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fully combine using a rubber spatula. Pour the batter evenly into the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.