Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing. It just isn’t. It’s probably the dish that I look forward to the most. It’s the one I spend the most time making sure is absolutely perfect, and it’s the cheapest thing on the table.
Now I know that some of you people out there call it “stuffing” and that you actually put it inside the bird. Let me tell you, you are making it way to difficult to get to. Dressing should be easily accessible at all times. It is delicious enough to get a whole dish of it’s own.
I also see that many people like to put all kinds of stuff in their dressing. I don’t want to tell people what to do, but in my opinion, sometimes “more” is just” more” and not necessarily any better. Great dressing is a lot like great pizza crust; there isn’t a whole lot to it, but technique and attention to detail is the key.
So, what makes a great dressing? Three things: Flavor, texture, and moistness.
Flavor is easy. A heavy helping of minced fresh sage, good chicken broth and plenty of salt and pepper is all you need. Don’t be scared of the sage. Use a lot. It makes it better. You also have to start at least a day in advance. Two days is even better. The bread will soak up all of that flavor the longer it gets to hang out together, so I like to mix the bread and seasoning, sage, and onion and celery together two days in advance.
Texture is fairly easy too. You need to make sure you have different types of bread. You don’t want it to be all cornbread. Then it’s not dressing… it’s cornbread. I prefer a pan of biscuits and a few heels of loaf bread mixed in. I keep the heels off my loaf bread in the freezer just for Thanksgiving.
Moistness is the tricky part. A dry dressing is unfortunate, but fixable. Soupy dressing is much harder to fix, but also much harder to achieve. Somewhere in the middle is ideal. Good chicken broth is key and you are going to need a lot of it. One 13×9 pan can take up to 6 cups of broth. I like to pour the broth in the night before and let it sit in the fridge, then check it for moistness before I put it in the oven, adding more broth if needed. So how do you know if you have achieved the perfect moistness? You know how when you were a kid and you jumped in the creek with your tennis shoes on and then had to walk around all day in that heavy, wet, soggy shoe? And every time you took a step more water came out of nowhere? Your dressing should be that shoe… but taste much better.
Oven temperature and time is flexible. As long as the oven isn’t crazy hot, you can cook this at any moderate temperature. It usually hangs out in my oven with the turkey or whatever else I am cooking.
Serve along with all of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes and maybe a little gravy on top!
2 pans of cornbread – Southern style ( that means no sugar)
1 pan of biscuits
2 cups of chopped bread ( French bread, loaf bread, etc)
1/3 cup minced fresh sage
4-6 cups of chicken broth
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery with leaves, diced
heavy hand of salt and pepper
(optional, minced mushrooms and garlic)
Crumble all of the bread together and mix well. Add in chopped sage, celery, onion and garlic and mushrooms if using. Season with salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.
Pour enough chicken stock over the dressing to make a squishy, homogeneous mass. Let sit for at least an hour, overnight in the fridge is better.
Check for moistness and seasoning and add more stock if needed. Bake in a moderate oven, 350-400 degrees, until edges are brown, top is crisp and dressing is hot all the way through. About an hour.
- 1 7-inch pans of cornbread – Southern style ( that means no sugar)
- 8 large biscuits
- 3 Tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 4-6 cups of chicken broth
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 stalks celery with leaves diced
- heavy hand of salt and pepper
- 4 oz. mushrooms minced
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- Crumble all of the bread together and mix well. Add in chopped sage, celery, onion and garlic and mushrooms if using. Season with salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.
- Pour mixture into a 13×9 dish or other large pan and press down firmly. Let sit overnight if you have the time.
- Pour enough chicken stock over the dressing to make a squishy, homogeneous mass. Let sit for at least an hour, overnight in the fridge is better.
- Check for moistness and seasoning and add more stock if needed. Bake in a moderate oven, 350-400 degrees, until edges are brown, top is crisp and dressing is hot all the way through. About an hour.