My idea of truly perfect stuffing involves bread, sausage, sage, butter, onion and celery. But not even sausage, really, or even sage. One day I hope to be extremely old and senile and have some very official rider in my old folks home, undoubtedly run by robots, wherein I am to be fed mushy stuffing morning, noon, and night. Those robot-nurses better treat me right. I don’t like texture or unexpected ingredients in my Thanksgiving stuffing. I don’t know why some people call it dressing. I don’t care for chestnuts, oysters, anything slimy or that possibly grows underground. I find chestnuts altogether creepy and suspect. But that’s me. And Thanksgiving is for giving. It is right there in the name. It’s for sharing and family and all that is selfless. It’s for watching parades and football games and getting totally grossly full on foods packed with butter and salt. It’s for drinking before noon and laughing through tears when the dog steals the turkey resting on the counter. It’s about pies. And Miles Standish and funny hats. And Wampanoags. And one day I will go back to Plimouth Village, where I spent one of the best days of my life, in seventh grade. Maybe because everything else about seventh grade was so, so terrible that Plimouth seems like Heaven in my recollection, or maybe it really is a paradise of tallow candle making and hoop games. I made this stuffing because I knew my husband would like it. He is a WASP and they enjoy the dried fruit. It’s a very good stuffing, I recognize that. But I think I will make myself a secret stash of Stovetop to eat in the pantry while I drink my 10 am wine.
Thanksgiving week is upon us! What are you cooking this week? NB: The cornbread can be made ahead. And it comes together very quickly and you can make it before or after work and no one will know if you taste just a little as you go.
Cornbread Dressing with Fresh and Dried Fruit
Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious
For the cornbread:
- 1 1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg plus one yolk
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
For the stuffing:
- 1 loaf day-old or dried cornbread, cut into pieces
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 large white onions, diced
- 4 stalks of celery, ribs and leaves, diced
- 4 pears, unpeeled and diced
- 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
- 6 oz dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 3 oz dried cherries
- 3 oz raisins or pitted prunes
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
For the cornbread:
Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9x3x5 inch metal loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together butter, eggs, and buttermilk. Stir wet into dry ingredients with a wooden spoon and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Pour into loaf pan and bake, 40 minutes. Let bread cool in the pan. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch pieces. Turn the oven down to 200 and bake the bread pieces on a baking sheet, 30-40 minutes, or until beginning to crisp. Alternately, make the cornbread one day ahead and leave, covered, overnight.
For the stuffing:
Preheat oven to 375 and butter a large baking dish In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Saute onions until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add celery, pear, and sage and saute another 10 minutes. In a very large mixing bowl combine cooked veggies/fruit/herbs, dried fruits and cornbread. Season with salt and pepper and slowly add the chicken broth. Mixture should be wet but not saturated. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake, 40 minutes.