Until recently, I had very few (and always unpleasant) experiences with cornbread dressing. First: Cold oyster stuffing (made with canned oysters), actually stuffed inside the bird, sitting on the counter for several hours. So wrong on so many levels. Second: the Side Dish of Choice at Southern Thanksgiving. And it was always kind of gummy with a weird aftertaste. While I have been able to get on board with many Southern culinary traditions (hello, meat pies!), cornbread dressing has just been one I can’t appreciate. I really, really love my Dad’s version of the Thanksgiving superstar and it was always going to be my favorite.
And then I decided that if I’m going to be an honorary Southerner, maybe I should try to find a way to like cornbread dressing. When I was trying to figure out what I did and didn’t want my cornbread dressing to be, I realized that I kind of wanted my Dad’s Italian Sausage Stuffing only made with cornbread. And have it not be gross or weird. And this recipe totally delivers.
For this recipe, you’ll need a 9×13″ pan of my favorite cornbread ever (I baked a 9×13″ pan and a 9×9″ pan one night when I was feeling particularly productive and annoyed at the lack of cake-like treats in my house and then left the 9×13″ pan out on the counter for a few days to dry out. All in the name of culinary delights and not laziness in any way.) If you’re worried about the sweetness of the cornbread or if you’re used to very savory dressing, you can always make a 9×13″ pan of your favorite regular cornbread. You’ll also need a pound (give or take–I actually used a whole package, which ended up being slightly more than a pound) of Italian sausage, a couple of onions, a tart apple, some celery, butter, chicken broth, and fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (I can guarantee that there was no cheesy singing from me or my husband. NONE.) You can also use dry sage, rosemary, and thyme, but herbs are cheap right now and the surprise post **cough** very first Our Best Bites Thanksgiving Turkey **cough cough** on Monday involves fresh herbs, so this is a great way to use up what you don’t use on the turkey.
Preheat oven to 375.
Crumble up the cornbread in a very large bowl. Crumble the Italian sausage (you can use sweet or spicy, but I use sweet so I can control the heat more easily) into a skillet heated over medium-high and cook it until it’s nice and brown and crumbly. Remove it from the skillet and set aside.
After you’ve transferred the sausage from the pan, take a look at the drippings in the pan. If there are about 2 tablespoons of drippings, go ahead and saute the onions, celery, and apples over medium-high heat. If there aren’t 2 tablespoons, add a little olive oil before adding the chopped ingredients. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent and fragrant.
Toss the onion mixture, the browned sausage, and the cornbread together. Add the chicken broth, melted butter, and chopped herbs and toss well. Press into a 9×13″ pan
and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve alongside your favorite Thanksgiving goodies. Or, if it’s like my house, this IS the showpiece and everything else is a side dish. For real. My husband ate two bowls of this and nothing else for dinner. Makes about 12 side dish servings.
Sausage Cornbread Dressing
Recipe adapted by Our Best Bites from Allrecipes
9×13″ pan of regular or Sweet Cornbread (can be made a few days ahead of time and left to dry out on the counter)
16-19 ounces Italian sausage (sweet or spicy; I use sweet so I can control the heat)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
3/4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. melted salted butter
Sage (2 teaspoons rubbed sage or 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage)
Rosemary (1/2 teaspoon dry or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary leaves)
Thyme (1/2 teaspoon dry or 1 teaspoon thyme leaves stripped from the woody stems)
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more if necessary)
Tabasco sauce to taste
Preheat oven to 375.
Crumble the pan of cornbread into a very large bowl. Set aside.
Crumble the Italian sausage into a hot skillet and brown it over medium heat. Transfer the crumbled sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
If there are 2 tablespoons of rendered sausage drippings in the pan, add the chopped celery, apples, and onions. If not, add enough olive oil to have around 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan and add the chopped ingredients when the oil is hot. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent and fragrant. Remove from heat and add to the crumbled cornbread. Add the sausage and chopped herbs and toss until combined. Add the chicken broth and melted butter and toss to combine well. Season with salt and Tabasco to taste.
Press the cornbread mixture into a 9×13″ pan and bake for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven or until the top is golden brown. Serves about 12.