Years ago, I started making our holiday dressing from scratch, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as far as our holiday menu each year. Cornbread dressing has to be one of the most forgiving recipes ever, and anyone can tweak it to their own taste. Indeed, I think I’ve varied my own recipe just a tad every year, and that is just part of the fun of making it.
Today, I’m sharing my dressing recipe, along with photos of each step.
- Steps in Part 1 of this process can be done ahead of time to save time on the day the meal is to be served.
- Steps in Part 2 are best done on the day the meal is served.
Part 1 (Advance Preparation)
In my previous post, I shared the first aromatic step in making this dressing, sautéing the Creole mirepoix (meer-PWAH). While this recipe can certainly be tweaked in many ways, omitting a basic mirepoix of onion and celery with another ingredient would be a mistake, since this is the foundation of the dish as far as flavor. For several years, I just used diced onion and celery, but more recently, I have added diced red bell pepper to the mix because it adds even more flavor and also some nice color.
The mirepoix for the dressing consists of one large sweet onion, the green stalks of a bunch of celery (not the tougher white parts) and one large red bell pepper, all chopped finely by hand or in a food processor. The mirepoix is then sautéed in about two tablespoons of Land O’ Lakes soft butter/canola oil, but feel free to just use butter or oil, if you desire.
Good cornbread is the base of the dressing, and I prepare two boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix. Jiffy cornbread is actually a traditional family dish and the only cornbread my mother ever baked. She also added a little sugar to her cornbread, and I’ve been known to do that a few times myself. For this recipe, I follow the recipe on the box, which calls for one egg and 1/3 cup of whole milk per box, doubling those for this recipe.
The cornbread can be baked as desired, but I start mine on the stove on medium high heat in an enameled cast iron skillet that has been warmed to 400 degrees in the preheated oven. Before adding the cornbread mix to the skillet, I melt two tablespoons of Land O’ Lakes butter with canola oil in the skillet, but butter or oil alone would be fine, too. Allow the mix to heat on the stove for only one minute, no longer, then transfer the skillet to the 400 degree oven for twenty minutes or until the cornbread is thoroughly done in the middle, using the toothpick test.
Cornbread is a real treat for me these days, as I have to follow a low-carb diet most of the time. So, when I make it, I want it to be pretty much perfect. This method of preparation is the best I’ve ever found, as the cornbread has a little crunch on the bottom and is evenly cooked throughout.
Isn’t this a beautiful… gorgeous… lovely sight?
I could have just stopped right there and eaten the whole thing! Seriously.
After letting the cornbread cool, crumble it into a bowl or large pan and leave it on the kitchen counter covered by a paper towel for one or two days. I used a pan with more surface area to allow it to dry out a little faster. If pressed for time, use the oven at 250 degrees to help the cornbread dry out faster, stirring it every ten minutes until it is a bit crunchy but retains some moisture, too.
Adding one pound of cooked pork breakfast sausage is an optional step, but it is a requirement for us because it adds even more flavor and helps keep the dressing moist. Simply cook a pound of regular sausage, then drain it thoroughly on paper towels, removing as much fat as possible. Store the sausage in a sealed container in the refrigerator until the day to make the dressing or in the freezer if making the dressing more than two days later.
At this point, I add some finely diced fresh parsley. It adds a subtle flavor and also adds some color, complimenting the red bell pepper nicely, and I store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator until I’m ready to make the dressing.
Part 2 (Assemble and bake)
On Thanksgiving, all that is left to do is combine the pre-prepared ingredients with the seasonings and chicken broth, then bake the dressing in the oven. Yes, that’s it! Easy peasy.
Combine the cornbread, mirepoix, sausage and parsley, then add most of a 32 oz. carton of chicken broth, reserving just a bit of the broth. Add seasoned salt and poultry seasoning, sprinkling both generously over the top, then stir well to combine. Feel free to taste test and add seasoning as desired, being careful to not over-season the mix. I don’t add pepper but some other people include it.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the empty baking dish in the oven to also preheat. I used an enameled cast iron baking dish. When the oven and baking dish are preheated, remove the dish from the oven and spray it with non-stick spray. (Don’t spray the dish before pre-heating it.)
Pour the dressing mix into the pre-heated dish, smooth it out, then bake it at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. At that point, remove the dressing from the oven and stir it thoroughly, then bake it for fifteen minutes or more until it reaches your desired consistency.
I love, love, love this dressing!
I can make a meal on this dressing and nothing else. It’s that good.
As I said earlier, dressing is a very forgiving dish to make. If your dressing is a bit dry, just add a little more chicken broth and heat it a bit longer. Take it to new levels by adding even more tasty ingredients, like sautéed diced mushrooms or finely diced jalapeno pepper.
For this dish, I do not recommend adding any other types of bread other than cornbread, but feel free to give it a try if you’re feeling especially adventurous. The consistency and flavor of the cornbread is what makes this dish, in my opinion. If you opt to use other breads in place of part of the cornbread, just be sure to dry them out as much as possible before making the dressing.
Here is the complete list of ingredients. Just read back through this post for the preparation instructions. Enjoy!
Southern Cornbread Dressing
For the Mirepoix:
one large sweet onion
one bunch of celery (use only green stalks)
one large red bell pepper, seeded and cored
two tablespoons Land O’ Lakes butter/canola oil spread
For the cornbread:
two boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix
two extra large eggs
2/3 cup milk
two tablespoons Land O’ Lakes butter/canola oil spread
one pound regular pork breakfast sausage
7-8 stalks of parsley leaves, diced
poultry seasoning (to taste)
seasoned salt (to taste)
32 oz. box regular chicken broth
(if using low sodium broth, use a little more seasoned salt or regular salt)
non-stick spray for the bottom of the baking dish
I use enameled cast iron dishes (pre-heated) to bake both the cornbread and the dressing for best results. If using other non-heated baking dishes, cooking times may take a bit longer.
Happy Thanksgiving cooking! Savor every moment of the fun! 🙂