Monday, November 20, 2006

Cornbread Dressing - Part 2

1 pan of cornbread, (about 6-10 cups crumbs)
3 cups bread crumbs (an egg bread like challah is a good choice, or use purchased “breadcrumbs”)
2-3 eggs
2-4 cups chicken stock and / or turkey drippings (canned or homemade – I sometimes also use low sodium canned vegetable broth)
½ cup green onions, minced (use the green tops – some people call these scallions)
1 onion (white or yellow), chopped
1 stick butter (use to sauté the white onions)
2 teaspoons rubbed sage (or poultry seasoning)
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper

Mix all ingredients, and bake in a buttered casserole dish at 400-450 F for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. The more liquid you add at the beginning will determine cooking time and final texture of the dressing. If you want a firm dressing, cook a little longer at a lower temperature – 350 or 375 – to prevent burning.

This is a very rough recipe – so you will have to taste and see if it meets your expectation. Sometimes you can bake a small amount to test before you actually put the whole batch in the oven. Use more of anything you like or that sounds good to you – pecans, celery, parsley, cranberries, chestnuts, mushrooms. Tweek the seasoning, then go for it. I acknowledge that some people do not like sage – although I cannot imagine why. Very well, leave it out. If you take the short cut with the onions I suggested in the cornbread recipe, just add the butter without adding extra onions.



Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cornbread Dressing - Part 1

Everyone in my family knows Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And cornbread dressing is an absolute ESSENTIAL. To satisfy a recent request - here goes!


Well, it is obvious, but must be said: To make cornbread dressing you must first make the cornbread. It should be made from scratch, not a mix, as all the mixes I have tried have sugar, and sweet cornbread just does not make a good base for dressing. So, we begin at the very beginning (a very good place to start). And the cornbread is best if made at least a day before your big event, so I am giving you a head start! Go ahead, make the cornbread, then you can go to the head of the class!

This is a simple, eggless cornbread. The miracle of cornbread is that if you do not have buttermilk you can easily substitute yogurt (plain, unsweetened) or plain milk (any kind – skim, 1%, 2%, whole) with a little vinegar OR lemon juice. Can it be any easier? Keep your cornmeal in the freezer, sealed in a Ziploc bag, if you don’t use it often. This is a very forgiving recipe, and after you have made it a couple of times, you can almost make it with your eyes closed, just a dash of this and that, then add milk till it “looks right”. Cook it in a hot oven, preferably in a cast iron skillet that has been greased with butter (or –whisper - bacon drippings).

Sometimes, when I need to "fast track" for dressing prep, I will chop the onions I plan to use in the dressing, and add them to the cornbread batter to bake in the cornbread.


1 1/2 cup white or yellow cornmeal (white is our family tradition)
½ cup flour
½ tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Before adding the milk to the dry ingredients, turn the oven to 425 F, and put your skillet on a top burner (or in the oven as it preheats). Heat the skillet on medium, and melt 2-4 tablespoons butter, margarine or “drippings”. Watch it while you mix the cornbread, and take it off the heat when the fat is melted. When you preheat the skillet, it gives the cornbread that nice crisp exterior!

To the mixed dry ingredients add:
1 cup buttermilk (or yogurt thinned with milk, or plain milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice

Stir thoroughly, and pour in the fat. Wipe the edge of the skillet with a paper towel, set the skillet back on the burner (turned off), and quickly mix the fat into the cornbread. Immediately turn the batter into the skillet, give it a shake to rise the bubbles, and put it in the already-hot oven. Bake approximately 25 minutes

Test it for doneness (toothpick or whatever – like a cake). Turn it out into a heat-proof bowl or plate to cool. Once cool, you can begin to break it up for the dressing. Do not cover it until cool. If you are making it several days in advance, keep it covered, and freeze or refrigerate. Sometimes I just crumble it up and put it on a cookie sheet, then place it in the oven (cool) to dry out a little, so it will absorb the flavors of the chicken stock when I make the dressing. Just don’t leave it more than about a day without covering and refrigerating.

If you just want cornbread, you can easily half the recipe, or make little corn cakes (like pancakes) fried lightly in oil. When I make corn cakes, I do not put fat in the recipe. If you absolutely must have a sweet cornbread, add about a tablespoon sugar to the dry measures.