Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I didn’t like dressing as a kid. I’m not sure why it took me so long to evolve into a rational human being with properly functioning taste buds, but fortunately I wasn’t crazy forever and now I’m an honest to goodness dressing fiend. Like most families, our Thanksgiving table is steeped in familiarity and tradition. The spread rarely changes – roasted turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, token green veggie casserole of some sort, dinner rolls, and of course good ol’ cornbread dressing. Dressing – or stuffing if that’s what you prefer to call it – seems to be a very personal thing and the idea of what makes it good varies from family to family. But if someone were to ask me about the dressing I crave (I’m going to pretend you just did), then I would tell them it would definitely be this adaptation of the recipe my dad makes every year.
My changes from the original are probably a little bit obvious if you are aware of the fact I ate meat until I was 18 – so naturally the main adjustment was making it vegetarian friendly. Dad also prepares his with chopped up hard-boiled eggs, something that’s never been my cup of tea but a lot of people really enjoy eggs in their dressing. If you’re a vegan and looking to adapt this to your lifestyle, substitute the butter with olive oil or margarine and omit the parmesan cheese. Adding a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast would be awesome in its place. You’ll also want to make sure that the breakfast sausage you use is vegan friendly. On the other hand, if you’re a meat-eater you can use regular sausage – but make sure it is cooked before adding it to the recipe.
One of the great things about recipes like these is that they are so easy to change to suit your personal tastes. Someone that likes a more dry and crumbly dressing (no doubt for its optimal gravy absorption qualities) can use less stock, whereas the people that want their dressing thick enough to slice can use more. I would say that anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 cups is the range you want to stay in. The force with which you pack it into the casserole dish before baking will also have an effect on the end texture. Personally I like a bit of balance between the two extremes and I’ve written up the recipe to reflect that preference. You can substitute other nuts for the pecans, toss some sauteed button mushrooms into the mix, use a different combination of fresh herbs, bake individual servings in muffin tins, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Hell, try using jalapeno cornbread and chorizo for a southwestern twist. Once you’re acquainted with the basic ingredients, it’s pretty simple to take this recipe and make it your own. Ahh, the beauty of cooking…
- 1 8″ skillet (or 8×8″ pan) of cornbread
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced (this was about 12 medium sized sage leaves for me)
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 vegetarian breakfast sausage patties, cooked and chopped (this ends up being about 1 cup of sausage)
- 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups prepared stock (give or take depending on how crumbly or moist your prefer your dressing to be)
- Preheat oven to 375F. Butter your casserole dish (I used an 8″x11″ oval dish) and set aside.
- In a nonstick skillet heat butter, sage, and rosemary on medium heat until the butter just starts to bubble.
- Add onion, celery, garlic, salt, and pepper then cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove rosemary sprig and transfer the contents of the skillet to a large mixing bowl.
- Wipe the skillet clean and toss in your chopped pecans. Toast over medium heat until fragrant and then add them to the mixing bowl.
- Crumble the cornbread into the bowl with the sausage, parsley, and cheese. Toss everything until well combined. Taste and add a little more salt if needed (I find the individual ingredients usually have enough sodium on their own that it doesn’t need it).
- Transfer the cornbread mixture to your prepared baking dish and lightly pack it down. Pour stock evenly over the top.
- Place dish in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. If you prefer the top to be a little more crisp, pop it under the broiler for a minute or two.
- You can easily get this recipe under 200 calories by using half of the pecans and cutting the butter back to 1 tablespoon. Add a touch more stock to compensate for the reduced amount of butter.