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Friday, December 6, 2013

Cornbread Dressing - Simply Delicious

Everything you'll need

Holidays are times for favorites and that especially means food.   Gingerbread cookies, whose deliciousness floats through the house; Roasting turkey, cranberry sauce.  The list grows longer.  One of my special favorites, besides seeing my favorite elf, cozy by the fireside, with a naughty grin on her face…ah, lost my train of thought….oh, yeah, food.  Cornbread dressing!

Some call it stuffing, but I never stuff a turkey, so I call it dressing.  Dates back to my childhood, over half a century ago.  I picture my mother, who miraculously never weighted more than 105 pounds, in the uncomfortably warm kitchen, Vogue perfect, a starched apron completing the ensemble.  The oven going.  The stovetop, with half a dozen steaming pans, and on the counter a cast iron skillet loaded with day-old cornbread.  Why day-old instead of freshly baked?  Moisture, my lad.  Cornbread that’s a tad on the dry side soaks up the goodness of all that’s to follow.

It all starts with cornbread. Here’s my recipe, but feel free to use another.  The important things are to make it a day ahead and to make enough!  This is a single recipe that I use to make dressing that feeds 6-8.

2 Cups cornmeal (I use organic, non-genetically modified.  Just make sure it is a normal grind, not finely ground)
1/4 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder (non-aluminum)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Cup milk
1/4 Cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites, or 1 whole egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).  Heavily grease an iron skillet or 8x9 inch pan.  Put the pan in the oven to heat while you mix the cornbread.

Combine the dry ingredients. Stir in the wet ingredients, mixing only until the dry ingredients are moist.  Do not over-mix.

Remove the pan from the oven, pour in the batter, and put the pan back in the pre-heated oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Once you have the cornbread, the rest is a cinch.

Prepare the vegetables:

1 1/2 Cups sliced celery
1 1/2 Cups roughly chopped onions
1 Carrot, shredded
1 1/2 sticks butter
2 Cans or 1 32 oz carton organic chicken broth

Melt the butter in a skillet, add the vegetables and stir.  Cook only until the vegetables are just soft.

While the vegetables are cooking, in a saucepan, heat the chicken broth and reduce by half.

Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl.  Add the cooked vegetables and mix lightly, being careful not to pack down the mixture.  Moisten with the reduced chicken broth and toss.  Do not let the mixture get soggy. Taste and add more broth or melted butter if you wish.

Put the dressing mixture in an ovenproof dish and bake at 350ºF (180ºC) until the tops of the chunks of dressing begin to brown.

Notice, the dressing is not packed down!

Already have the Turkey carved, the table set? Remove the dressing from the oven and serve with your favorite homemade turkey gravy.

Now that you’ve done your duty, crack open that bottle of bubbly and join your elf by the fireside.  Maybe the guests won’t notice.

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