Thanksgiving Coundown II: Cornbread Dressing

Thanksgiving_clip_art_03My understanding of stuffing versus dressing is that the former is actually inside the turkey while the latter is baked alongside (or after) it.  First you’ll need some cornbread and if you use the recipe below, just add the sage or poultry seasoning directly to the batter.  Or feel free to use your favorite bread as a substitute – you’ll need about 4 to 5 cups of fine fresh breadcrumbs made by cubing day-old bread and giving it a spin in the food processor, then just add the rubbed sage and poultry seasoning from the cornbread recipe to the dressing’s liquid before adding the crumbs.  The rest of the dressing process is a little like a bread pudding and results in a moist and very sage-y accompaniment to the turkey and gravy.

 Makes about 8 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup finely chopped celery (you can pulse it in the food processor)

3/4 cup finely chopped white onion

1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken broth or milk, see Note below

Salt, pepper, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 large eggs

1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or fresh sage, or both

1 9-inch round Cornbread for Dressing, below, broken into fine crumbs by hand

1 tablespoon melted butter for the top of the dressing

One 1 1/2- to 2-quart gratin dish or other baking dish, buttered 

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the celery starts to sizzle.  Decrease the heat and continue cooking until the celery begins to soften, about 5 minutesStir in the onion and cover the pan.  Let the vegetables sweat until very soft, about 5 to 10 minutes longer, uncovering and stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the broth or milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, then stir in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  4. Whisk the eggs in a medium mixing bowl and whisk in the hot liquid.  Stir in the parsley and all but 1/2 cup of the crumbled cornbread.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle the surface with the reserved crumbs and butter.
  6. Bake the dressing until it is set and the crumbs are golden, about 30 to 40 minutes. 
  7. Cool slightly and serve immediately.

Note:  To make enough turkey broth for the dressing and for your turkey gravy, place the turkey neck and 5 cups water in a saucepan and add half a small onion or leek, a small peeled carrot, a small stalk of celery, 2 sprigs parsley, a small bay leaf and a sprig of thyme.  Bring to a simmer, skimming often, and cook for about an hour.  Strain away the solids and cool the broth.  Store covered in the refrigerator if made in advance.


1 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1 cup stone-ground yellow or white cornmeal

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon rubbed (dried ground) sage

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup whole milk

2 large eggs

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

One 2-inch deep 9-inch round pan, buttered and the bottom lined with a disk of parchment or buttered wax paper

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. Stir the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, sage, poultry seasoning, and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, smoothly whisk the eggs and milk together.  Whisk in the melted butter.
  4. Add the liquid to the bowl of dry ingredients and use a large rubber spatula to quickly fold everything together.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  6. Bake the cornbread until it is well risen and light golden on top, feels firm in the center and the point of a paring knife inserted in the center emerges clean, about 25 minutes.
  7. Cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then loosen the cornbread from the side of the pan with a small paring knife if necessary and invert it to another rack.  Peel off the paper and replace it with another rack.  Invert the whole stack, lift off the rack and cool.
  8. For advance preparation, double wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to a day or freeze.