I grew up on this cornbread dressing. There was never a Thanksgiving without it, and leftovers were fought over as if it were pie. It’s the real, old-fashioned dressing. Dressing that knows it’s dressing. Nothing fancy, but delicious in a simplicity that trusts the basic flavor combination that is so home.
Dressing is largely bread, so it makes sense to use the best bread at your disposal. (Which is never sandwich bread from the store.) Please, please, think about your bread before you make your dressing! The bread can be a little stale, which is handy when you’re preparing for a big meal. Make the bread a few days before to take the load off your holiday prep schedule. You can also do all your vegetable chopping in advance and throw the dressing together in a few minutes when it’s time. If possible, put the dressing together the day before you intend to bake it in order to allow time for the flavors to meld. You always knew it was the day before Thanksgiving in my house when I was growing up because there was a big pan of dressing in the fridge. My mother always had the bread made a day or two ahead of that.
Of course, my mother always made it with this cornbread and, depending on what was on hand, either Grandmother Bread or these biscuits. The white bread is the smaller portion of the bread and it works just fine whether you use cubed loaf bread (Grandmother Bread!) or crumbled biscuits. My mother used whichever she happened to have, and so do I. (It doesn’t take much to come up to three cups.) One pan of cornbread will give you enough for the seven cups of that.
My mother sometimes would replace one cup of the cornbread and one cup of the white bread with two cups of Pepperidge Farms herbed cubes (cornbread/white mixed) because she liked the herb flavoring in it and because she grew up on a farm in the dust bowl of Oklahoma during the Depression. She didn’t have anything to prove to anybody about doing everything the hard way. When she got to civilization, she said, “Dude, show me the convenience products!” (Okay, my mother has never said the word “dude” in her whole life, but the rest is true.) If you go that route using part Pepperidge Farm herbed cubes, adjust the seasonings in this recipe by taste-testing as you add them.
I never use the Pepperidge Farms herbed cubes. I grew up in the suburbs and came to the boonies of West Virginia and said, “Dude, show me the hardships!” (It’s really not that hard–you’re already gonna make a pan of cornbread and you already gotta have some white bread onhand. I prefer the all homemade, throwback, real old-fashioned recipe my mother started with before Pepperidge Farms put stars in her eyes, and I promise you will, too!
This recipe makes enough for 10-12 people and fits a regular 9 x 13 casserole pan. If you have a huge crowd, double the recipe and go for two pans.
Sometimes when I post links within paragraphs, people miss them, so to make it easy:
For the cornbread—my recipe is here.
7 cups cornbread, crumbled
3 cups white bread, crumbled or cubed
2 cups celery, chopped
3 cups onions, chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
3-4 cups chicken or turkey broth
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Place the crumbled cornbread and white bread in a large mixing bowl. Add chopped celery and onions. Mix.
Pour the melted butter over all the ingredients along with 3 cups of the broth. (ONLY add 3 cups just yet! Wait on the last cup. More info on that below.) Add the seasonings gradually. Test to your taste.
You may like more or less of any of the seasonings. Poultry seasoning usually includes thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, and black pepper. If you have a particular dislike for any of those, you can add the seasoning separately for each herb you choose. I also add the extra teaspoon of sage, which is enough for me. You may like it more sagey. (Or less.) Use more, or less, of the salt.
The dryness or moistness of dressing is also taste-specific. You may prefer yours more crumbly. If you only use three cups of the broth, you’ll get a more “Stouffer’s”-like consistency, if that’s what you’re used to and prefer. I use four cups of turkey broth in mine. I like it moist. I roast turkeys throughout the year. I save the broth over from one to the next for various uses. (I freeze it in quart jars, leaving enough head space. You can also use home-canned broth, or just buy chicken broth from the store.)
Do all your taste-testing before adding the eggs. Add the fourth cup of broth if you like. When you’re sure you’re satisfied with how you’ve seasoned it, add the eggs. Mix well and spoon into a greased 9 x 13 casserole pan. You can refrigerate it overnight (or even a couple of days). It’s truly best when it’s made ahead of time and left to sit, though you can bake it right away if you need to. It can also be frozen ahead of time. Let it defrost in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it.
Bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes, covered. Take the cover off and bake an additional 30 minutes.
Cornbread dressing isn’t just for Thanksgiving, by the way! And it’s not even just for turkey. It’s great with chicken or pork, too. (I bake the meat and dressing separately then add the meat on top of the dressing when it’s time to serve.)
One more thing–my mother liked to also stir in a can of sliced water chestnuts. This is not quite traditional to the recipe, just something she liked. I was never a huge fan of the water chestnuts, so I don’t. Just tossing that out there in case it’s something that appeals to you.
If you’re new to hosting Thanksgiving dinner and have never made dressing before, or if you’ve lost the family recipe for cornbread dressing, I hope this is one that will bring back the memories you’re looking for this year. Or if you have a favorite family Thanksgiving dressing recipe already, I’d love to hear about it and even have you post it in the comments. Your recipe might just be the one someone is looking for that matches their memories.
Tell us about your dressing!