Who cares if it’s stuffing or dressing – let’s eat!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cornbread dressing is a Southern favorite, but there are many ways to prepare the dish.

Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite meal of the year. I have prepared it for 36 years with the exception of a year or two. This year, my sons and daughter-in-law are coming for two days, so I have begun preparing my menu for Thanksgiving and a few other meals.

I always do a turkey and many sides. The sides consist of scalloped oysters, mashed potatoes, creamed onions and peanuts, scalloped tomatoes and artichoke hearts, roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta, broccoli with lemon and garlic, and there is usually some type of cranberry sauce and gravy on the side. I usually do a pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.

Every year, I think of trying a new type of dressing. I have done the dressing with oysters, sausage, and just about every kind of vegetable and have decided the best dressing is simply done with cornbread (that you make) and lots of onions, celery and some good spices. I am adding chestnuts this year in the dressing, just to see how their taste will add or not add to the dressing.

Is it dressing or stuffing? Jean Anderson, a noted Southern cookbook author, says that in the South, it is dressing whether cooked in the bird or not. Cornbread or some other bread (or rice)? In the South most use cornbread but Scott Peacock of Southeastern Alabama said his family used cornbread, white bread and Saltine crackers – whatever they had.

Whatever you do this Thanksgiving, make sure to take time to enjoy your family and friends. That is what makes the meal special no matter what you serve.


Cornbread for Dressing

Makes 8-inch square loaf

Unsalted butter, softened for baking pan

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together milk and eggs until frothy; then stir into dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Do not over-mix; the batter should be lumpy.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until top is golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry, 20-25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.


Cornbread Dressing

Serves 8-10

2 cups chestnuts (You can buy them already cooked and peeled to save time, and you will only need 1¼ cups)

Cornbread from the recipe above

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more, softened, for baking dish

2 large onions, finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped celery

½ cup finely chopped shallots

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

4 Gala apples, peeled, corde and cut into ½-inch pieces. (Gala Apples were introduced in the U.S. from New Zealand in the 1970s. It is a sweet dessert apple related to the Golden Delicious.)

½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh sage

1 to 1 ½ cups Turkey stock or low-sodium store bought chicken or vegetable stock

Cut a slit in each chestnut with scissors or a paring knife. Cook chestnuts in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes; then drain in a colander. When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard shells and inner brown skins. Quarter each.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Crumble cornbread into a large bowl. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook chestnuts, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about eight minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer chestnuts to bowl, reserving butter in pan.

Add onions, celery and shallots to pan; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about five minutes. Add apples and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about five minutes more. Transfer to bowl with cornbread mixture. Add parsley, sage and enough stock to moisten mixture. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer dressing to a buttered 3-quart shallow baking dish. (The dressing can be prepared to this point up to one day ahead; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Return to room temperature and uncover before baking.) Bake until heated through and top is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Happy Thanksgiving!