I briefly considered calling this Ma Barnes’ stuffing, the last remnant of a brief first marriage at the tender age of 21. The original recipe came from my ex mother-in-law. She was from Wisconsin and her stuffing had a definite midwestern, no-nonsense appeal. In my own hands it has undergone many variations, especially once I moved to the west coast. But, you can still detect the bones of that first recipe in this one. Some of my adaptations have been more successful than others…chestnuts added (couldn’t really detect them), walnuts (nice crunch but not needed), artichoke hearts (that was an interesting year, kids weren’t crazy about them), Italian sausage (spicy, non-spicy, chicken – all delicious), no sausage (vegetarian version), olive oil instead of butter, currents instead of raisins, and lastly the addition of cornbread. I think you get the idea. I am going to give you the most current iteration, the one that finally stuck. However feel free to adapt it to match your families taste.
The addition of cornbread was what elevated this recipe to a new high. Ma Barnes used crumbled hamburger or hot dog rolls and poultry seasoning, I did the same for the first few years. It was good. But, magic happened the first time I added cornbread and herbs de Provence. It went from simply good to “Oh my!” and “Can I have thirds?”. Now I use about half torn stale brioche or ciabatta bread and half cornbread. The cornbread gives additional texture and depth of flavor. In my family the holiday meals are all about the stuffing and/or dressing. I have to make enough to last for several days; it’s the first thing that they look for when they open the refrigerator the morning after Thanksgiving. This dressing is the heart of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner…forget the turkey.
I am using the terms stuffing and dressing interchangeably. But technically it is called stuffing if stuffed inside your turkey or other bird, and dressing if cooked outside the bird in a casserole. I started out cooking it only as a stuffing, but there was not enough copious leftovers. Now I either do both, or cook it entirely as a dressing. It is good both ways. And it is excellent reheated with a poached or fried egg on top, makes an excellent sandwich with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, and an over the top panini with cheese and turkey.
Speaking of turkey, this is the year I have discovered sous-vide. Stay tuned for sous vide turkey. But that is a discussion for another post, probably after Thanksgiving but in time for Christmas. Aren’t you impressed by all the bloggers who cook a full holiday dinner weeks before the actual event so they can write and photograph a holiday dinner? I sure am. I admit to being more of a ‘just in time’ blogger, or even ‘after the fact’ blogger. I will only be way ahead of the game for 2018!
If you are a regular reader, you might notice that this is not the first time you have seen this recipe. It was first posted it in January of 2015 under the heading of Friday Chicken. I think it would be difficult for you to find, and it deserves a post all of its own. Check out the link above to the Friday Chicken post if you have time. It is a great trick (borrowed from Richard Olney and Vincent Price) to stuff a chicken under the skin before roasting. I have done the same with a turkey, however the longer cooking time means that the skin can easily burn. You do get an extremely flavorful bird, but you have to watch it very carefully.
You can buy prepared cornbread from a bakery or grocery store (try not to use one that is very sweet). Or, you can make your own. This year I am using a recipe from the frugal hausfrau for Southern Skillet Cornbread. You will need about half a recipe for the stuffing; save the rest for serving with a bowl of chili or soup Yum! I am not going to reprint her recipe. You can follow the link to see Mollie’s post. I did change one thing, because I was going to use it in the dressing, I substituted 1/4 cup butter instead of the drippings or vegetable oil called for in her recipe. Wouldn’t bacon fat be wonderful? Oh my! But this doesn’t need it because you already have the sausage. I think it would be over kill.
Take a look at this cornbread…
If short on time you can always use a boxed cornbread mix, they aren’t half bad. Your stuffing will still be delicious.
Raisin Cornbread Sausage Stuffing or Dressing:
- 4 tablespoons of butter, plus more if needed
- 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, either bulk or removed from casings
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- Pinch or red pepper flakes
- 2-3 fresh brioche rolls or other soft bread, torn into pieces
- 8 oz. of cornbread, crumbled
- 2 small handfuls of golden raisins or currents
- Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed
- 1/2 to 1 cup of turkey or chicken stock if baked outside the bird
- Melt the butter in a large skillet.
- Add the sausage, crumble it into small pieces as it browns.
- Add the onion, celery, Herbs de Provence, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes.
- Stir and continue to sauté on medium heat until the onion and celery are softened, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile tear the cornbread and brioche bread into 3/4 inch pieces in a large bowl, you don’t want them too small.
- Add the raisins and mix.
- When cooked and while still warm, add the contents of the skillet to the large bowl and mix well. Taste for salt, you want it well seasoned.
- If the contents look dry (it depends on how much fat is in your sausage), add another 2 (or more) tablespoons of butter to the skillet to melt. Then add it to the bowl. Ma Barnes would add as much as a full stick of butter at this point.
- Cover and bake immediately as per numbers 10 and 11 below, or set aside to cool. In my household that needs to be far away from the edge of the counter and out of reach of the dogs. Once cool you can refrigerate it for a day. Keep your last minute stress level down and prepare it the day before the holiday.
- If using as a dressing: When ready to bake as a dressing (outside the bird), preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the stuffing in a shallow casserole dish and add the stock. You want the bread to be moist but not swimming. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until hot, about 30 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to 425 degrees F and crisp the top. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn although those charred crispy bits are my favorite.
- If using as a stuffing: When ready to cook your turkey, heat the stuffing in the microwave until very hot. Using clean rubber gloves, stuff the turkey inside both the body and neck cavity. Truss and bake immediately. The hot dressing ensures food safety, you will also find that your turkey will also need less time in the oven. Be sure to check the doneness frequently with an instant read thermometer.
Moist on the middle but crisp on the top, it was delicious.
I baked this in the afternoon to post, took some photos, and went out to dinner with a couple of friends. The dressing was left on the stove to cool.
This is what was left when I arrived home a few hours later…
It wasn’t the dogs either.
Enough said, I don’t think you can have a better recommendation. I think I need to make a quadruple batch for the holiday meal.
I am co-hosting this week’s Fiesta Friday, #198. It’s always fun to have several stuffings/dressings to choose from and I think this one will be a hit. Come see all the delicious offerings at this week’s party by clicking on the FF link, it will take you to our host, Angie’s. My cohost this week is Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com. Her sausage gravy will go well with my offering.