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November 22, 2010

Cornbread Dressing is love on a spoon

This is a big pan of cornbread dressing just ready to go in the oven:

(Fuzzy, oddly colored pic from my iphone)

If you are asking yourself right now, "What is dressing?" then you are a likely a Yankee and all I can say is Bless Your Heart. Aw, don't feel so bad. Ya'll won the war.

I've technically lived in Los Angeles now almost as long as I lived in the South, but I feel most Southern around food, especially anything having to do with cornbread or The Trinity. For many people, Thanksgiving turkey comes with something called stuffing and sometimes it's even inside the turkey (!) and has odd bits in it like walnuts (!!) and cranberries (!!!) and the most far-out of all, raisins. In a turkey. What will they think of next?

You don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to have dressing, I made mine yesterday and cooked a big huge turkey breast in the crockpot and plan to have Thanksgiving all week long.

To make cornbread dressing, first you need to make cornbread. The real stuff, not that fluffy, sweet corn-like muffin thing you get in restaurants. Southern cornbread is not sweet or cake-like or light, it's dense and grainy and chewy and cooked in cast iron.

Real Southern Cornbread

• 2 cups cornmeal (I use yellow, you can use white if you prefer)
• 1/4 cup flour
• 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups buttermilk (you can use less buttermilk and add in some water if you prefer)
• 2 eggs
• 1/4 cup oil or shortening or bacon fat (I use oil)
• OPTIONAL - A pinch of sugar, I use a very small amount, maybe 2 teaspoons.
• 8-inch cast iron skillet (makes a taller cornbread) or 10-inch skillet (makes a flatter cornbread)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the oil in the skillet and place it in the oven to get hot.

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix wet ingredients (except oil, it's in the pan in the oven) and add to dry, incorporate.

Pull the hot pan out of the oven (use your oven mitts, seriously people) and add the hot oil to the mixture, leaving just a little hot oil in the pan to coat it well.

Stir the batter, put the batter in the hot, oily pan and put it in the oven to cook for 20-25 minutes.

*****You can make this recipe totally gluten free by using a good gluten-free cornmeal and adding in white rice flour or some other GF flour in place of the all-purpose flour.****

Once you have your cornbread, making dressing is a snap. It's really just cornbread, toast, spices and of course the trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper. The fact that Southerners and Cajuns call this mixture "The Trinity" speaks deeply to our love and religious fervor about food.

Southern Cornbread Dressing


* Crumbled cornbread
* 6-8 pieces of bread toasted and cut into pieces
* Oil
* 2 cups (or less) chopped green bell pepper
* 2 cups chopped onion
* 2 cups chopped celery
* 4 cups chicken broth (or more if needed)
* 1 heaping tablespoon dried sage
* Salt and black pepper to taste
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten

To make:

Heat oven to 350ºF.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornbread and bread crumbs.

Make the Trinity:
In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion and celery and bell pepper in oil until tender. Do not brown. Add in the salt, pepper and sage to taste. I am hedonistic and add a small pinch of cayenne but DO NOT TELL MY FATHER.

Combine the sautéed trinity with the breads in the big bowl. Stir in chicken broth, using enough to moisten. It should be almost soupy. Stir in the beaten eggs, blending well. Spread the mixture in a large shallow pan (measuring about 10" x 15") and bake for 20 minutes uncovered and another 20 or so covered with foil.

*** To make this totally Gluten Free, I used a carton of pre-made gluten free bread cube thingies sold at Whole Foods in place of the toast. It works great. You could also use GF bread and toast it up, but either way you need to soak the gluten free toasted bread cubes in some chicken broth first before adding it to the cornbread. ****

And, as the side dish to my dressing, I made a turkey breast in the crockpot:


* Turkey breast
* Chicken broth or stock, about 1 cup
* Aromatics: I use a cut lemon, onions, a few pieces of celery, bay leaves, black peppercorns and of course some Bell's poultry seasoning, rubbed all over the meat

Put the aromatics in the bottom of the pot. Add seasoned turkey, add broth and cook on high for 1-2 hours, and low for four to six more depending on size. Make sure your bird is cooked to at least 160ºF using a meat thermometer.

The skin does not crisp up this way, but becomes moist and very easy to remove if you, like me, do not prefer the skin. Also, the turkey stays juicy and tender. This is a super no-fuss way to make a turkey as a very good accompaniment to your dressing!

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Frankie smells turkey in the air...

Posted by laurie at November 22, 2010 10:16 AM