Cornbread dressing

Cornbread:
1 ½ cups cornmeal
½ cup unbleached flour
2 tbs sugar (Don’t tell…. they’ll kick me out of Texas for putting sugar in my cornbread)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup butter, melted

Set a cast iron skillet (9 inch round) on the stove and heat on high while you make the batter.  Combine dry ingredients, then make a well in which to add the wet ingredients.  Mix, just to bring together.  Place a few tablespoons of vegetable oil (or bacon grease if you’ve only a few months to live) in the skillet and swirl it around to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. A little oil should pool in the bottom.  Carelfully pour the batter into the hot pan. It will sizzle as the batter cooks a little.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Run a knife around the edge to loosen, then turn the cornbread out to cool.

Cornbread dressing:
4 skillets of cornbread, allowed to dry for a few days
1 batch buttermilk biscuits (there’s a recipe on this blog somewhere), dried
2 cups white onions, minced
1½ cups celery, minced
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup cooked turkey giblets, chopped (optional)
4-6 tbs poultry seasonings or rubbed sage (I like mine to be heavily seasoned. Back it off if you’d like)
1 tbs kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
3-4 cups sodium free chicken broth (Mine’s free range of course)
1 stick butter

In the largest bowl you own (my grandmother always used her dish pan) crumble together the cornbread and biscuits. The size of the crumble is to your taste.  In my family it’s always very finely crumbled.  Mix in vegetables, and seasonings very well.  Melt butter and combine it with the chicken (or turkey) stock.  A little at a time, add the stock to the cornbread mixture.  Mix it thoroughly as you go.  As you add, pick up a little of the mixture in your hand and lightly squeeze it in your palm. It should hold together when released, but not form a dough at all. It will remain crumbly.  When the consistency is correct, taste the mixture and reaseason as desired.

Place the dressing in one or two 13X9 inch baking dishes. (I reserve some to stuff into my turkey. This would get me disowned by any food microbiology professor I’ve ever learned from, but I love love love the resulting dressing).  Bake the pans in a 350 degree oven until the cornbread is no longer mealy, about 2 hours.  Remove the pans occasionally and stir them to prevent burning.  Add more broth or turkey drippings as needed if the mix looks too dry. You can also add more fat as you go.

For a drier dressing use fewer biscuits and less broth. For a more wet dressing use a higher percentage of biscuits and add more broth and butter.  I serve this with giblet gravy.

My grandmother was in charge of the dressing each year for our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. I find that the way she made it is just the way dressing is supposed to taste to me, but there are endless variations. You could leave your aromatic vegetables much chunkier, add any herbs you wish, stir some oysters into the mix a few minutes before it comes out of the oven, add apples and pecans… whatever you like.  Dressing is a very forgiving dish.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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