Virginia Willis’ Meme’s Cornbread Dressing
Serves 6 to 8
At Thanksgiving Meme always prepared her dressing on the side, as opposed to stuffing her turkey. Although there are exceptions, it seems most Southerners “dress” instead of “stuff.” I’ve taken a few liberties with Meme’s recipe, adding brioche and panko. It’s okay to use store-bought cornbread, but make sure it is not sweet. Typically, Southern cornbread is savory and rich with the taste of corn, with no sugar added. Sweet cornbread produces a dressing that’s just not quite right.
This dish is another in the book that serves more than the four to six people, and is best for larger gatherings of friends and family. It can be halved, or divided into two smaller pans—one to cook now, the other to wrap tightly in plastic and freeze for later use. After thawing to room temperature, cook as directed.
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
4 cups day-old, crumbled Buttermilk Cornbread
1 loaf brioche or egg bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup fresh or panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
2 cups chicken stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an ovenproof gratin or casserole dish.
In a very large bowl, combine the cornbread, brioche, and breadcrumbs in a very large mixing bowl; set aside.
Heat the 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetables to the bread mixture. Pour over the stock and add the eggs, sage, and thyme. The mixture should be fairly soupy; if not, add additional stock. Stir well to combine and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking dish. Bake until heated through, puffed, and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool slightly before serving.
Reprinted with permission from Bon Appétit, Y’all by Virginia Willis, copyright (c) 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2008 by Ellen Silverman. For more information, please visit http://www.virginiawillis.com