Holiday Cooking (with a twist): Part 2
I was thinking about cornbread dressing again last night when I was reading The Help and Aibileen makes corn bread and lets it set overnight before she makes dressing. I didn’t know it was a good idea to do that. But a lot of people don’t even know about the general good idea of cornbread dressing. Let me enlighten you:
For you northerners, or northerners without southern mamas, this is what constitutes cornbread dressing: Think stuffing, but take away the white bread, sage, and chunkyness. Think smooth and yellow and something that’s entirely good on its own. That’s cornbread dressing.
When I first got married, I wanted to make it for our own Thanksgiving. I called Mom and asked her for the recipe. Mom said that she didn’t really use a one, but she did copy something out for me from the 1970 Fayette Favorite Foods cookbook of Fayetteville, Georgia. Mom says that northerners don’t like dressing as much as southerners. That may be true, but I served 7 northerners cornbread dressing this past month and they all seemed to like it. Some were very vocal in requesting the recipe, which is usually a compliment, unless it’s just a way to make a cook believe you like the food without having to say you do.
So, this year, I remembered how I made the dressing, and here is the recipe I used, based on the one Mom had written down for me.
To make cornbread dressing, you first need some cornbread. I adapted this recipe from the old Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Make this first, and then follow the instructions for Corn Bread Dressing (below).
Perfect Corn Bread
1 C. all-purpose flour, unbleached (I often use whole wheat pastry flour.)
1/4 C. sugar
4 t. baking powder
4/3 t. salt
1 C. yellow corn meal (fresh, stone ground is the best)
1 C. milk
1/4 C. soft shortening (I always use oil instead of the shortening.)
In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Add eggs, milk, and shortening or oil. Beat until smooth about 1 minute. (You can use an electric mixer, but I just use a spoon.) Pour into a greased square or round pan OR a cast-iron skillet. Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. (You can heat the cast iron skillet up in the oven while you make the batter; this makes the crust all crispy. I’ve written a lot about cornbread on this blog. Check out the recipe for Caveman Cornbread here!)
Once you’ve made the cornbread (preferably the day before) you’re ready to make
In a large bowl, pour chicken or vegetable broth over 5 1/2 C. of bread crumbs/crumbled bread. (I use a mix of cornbread and regular bread, but usually it’s quite heavy on the cornbread side. You’ll be using 2-3 C. broth for this.) Let soften. In 4 T. butter, saute 1 small onion, chopped, 1 stalk celery, chopped, and 1 carrot, chopped. Add this to the bread mixture along with 1 T. parsley, 4 well-beaten eggs, 1/2 t. sugar, and salt and pepper (depending, of course, upon the salt content of the broth.) You can now take a little dressing and fry it up to check the taste. Adjust flavors, if necessary. Pour into a well-greased baking dish. Bake at 350 until cooked through, which will be about 45 minutes. I have also added sage and/or thyme to this, with success.