Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stuffing the Bird... or NOT!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday: all the family time and wonderful treats, no tacky Halloween décor and the feeling you have to dress up to be someone you’re not, and NO GIFT PURCHASING PRESSURE. Hm hm. Okay, I’ve regained my composure (such as it is). In October, I promised you my cornbread stuffing recipe. Time to deliver -- but no photos unless you want to frozen version. 

Have I mentioned we have a super cute little puppy??? hm hm (sorry, she whispers)...

But first, as always, a little background. Until I was in my early twenties, my great-grandparents hosted Thanksgiving dinner at their house – for the entire family. My great-grandmother (Grandma to us, Dixie to her siblings and friends), made cornbread dressing, as she called it; cornbread stuffing as I call it – the BEST cornbread stuffing EVER! …well, minus Grandma Dixie's canned black olives… 

My mom actually taught me the recipe. The first time I remember helping her make stuffing, I was fifteen and we were living in the Philippines on Subic Bay Naval Base; it was 1984. We were in the kitchen of our townhouse on Mahogany Drive; past the golf course, through some jungle, over the little bridge, and deeper into the jungle cut out to make the tiny subdivision that encompassed our home. It was the second Thanksgiving we had spent away from family and the first time my mom made the entire meal without her family’s help. The ingredients were purchased from the base commissary and the celery was, well, not exactly fresh, as it had been shipped from Australia. (We were used to it after a year and a half.)

I’ve made only a few basic changes: one due to current lifestyle changes, one due to basic knowledge we didn’t yet have, and one due to available ingredients. Why mess with (near) perfection? But…

The original version included:
Lifestyle:                             high-sodium, canned chicken broth
Knowledge:                        raw onions and celery
Available Ingredients:         bagged croutons and traditional poultry seasoning

The newer version includes:
Lifestyle:                             low-sodium chicken stock and unsalted butter
Knowledge:                        caramelized onions and celery
Available Ingredients:         sourdough bread and natural herbs & spices

The original is delicious. Feel free to substitute the original ingredients if that’s what’s available, to your taste, and/or due to time constraints. It’s only once (or twice) a year, after all. Add other veggies, nuts, olives, spices, fruit, sausage, or even (gasp) oysters or shrimp. Have fun with it! Make it your own.

By the way, remember my October 2, 2012 post "A Tiny Little Comfort Food" ??? Yeah, well, this is where those pre-cut bread cubes will come in handy.

v DON’T feel obligated to “stuff” the turkey. This prior knowledge came in especially handy last year when we decided to BBQ the turkey outdoors (in the rain) to leave room in our single oven for side dishes

v DO buy the sourdough and bake the cornbread a day or two prior to making the stuffing

v DO make the stuffing and get it into a casserole dish(es) then in the fridge the day prior to baking

v DO understand that this recipe makes enough cornbread stuffing for an army

v DO have an oversized vessel for mixing ingredients

v DO use your God-given best tools to mix – your HANDS

v DO use your crockpot. The crock can be used in the oven earlier in the day then placed in the pot with the lid on to keep stuffing warm and moist until ready to serve. (Add a bit more stock or butter if it gets dry)

v DON’T be afraid if the mixture feels wet, it will dry out in the oven. Besides, it’s savory bread pudding; you want it moist

v DO have aluminum casserole dishes on hand (available at Costco) for the portion to go in the freezer

Micol, Loreen, and Dixie's Cornbread Stuffing
1 double recipe cornbread (recipe on Alber’s white cornmeal; omit sugar)
1 full-sized loaf good quality sourdough bread, cubed to ½ inch dice (10/2/12 post)
2 - 32 oz containers low-sodium turkey or chicken stock
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 boxes All Natural Bell’s Seasoning (found at Whole Foods or online)
1 bunch celery, chopped including leaves
2 large white or yellow onions, chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Make cornbread using recipe on box (do NOT use sweet cornbread) and buy sourdough on Monday of Thanksgiving week so it dries out. Cut sourdough into ½ inch dice at your convenience. (Just a side note, I wait to make the cornbread until Tuesday so I don’t eat too much of it…)


In an oversized bowl or other vessel, break the cornbread up by hand into 1 to 2 inch pieces. (The following mixing will break it up further.) Add the sourdough cubes, all but 1 cup of the stock, melted butter, and seasoning.

In a large skillet, add onions to 2 Tbsp olive oil over a medium-high flame, stirring frequently. When they start to turn dark around the edges, add to the bread mixture. Place the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet. Add celery including leaves, stirring frequently until just softened. Add to the bread mixture.

Using a wooden spoon or wire whisk, deglaze the skillet with the remaining 1 cup of stock then add liquid to the bread mixture.

Using your hands or a large spoon, mix ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Everything is already cooked so don't worry about tasting as you go.)

Separate into several 9"x13" casserole dishes. Cover and place in fridge what you need for tomorrow and freeze the rest for later. (I love to use it instead of pie dough on chicken pot pie. It’s also perfect to throw in the oven as a side for last-minute company.)

Thanksgiving Day bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 45 minutes.

Merry Christmas and God’s blessings to your family!

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