My entire childhood I looked forward to my Grandmama's Cornbread Dressing every Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2007 I asked her for the recipe, and she handed me an old cutting from a newspaper with her handwritten notes in the margin.
The first attempt at recreating my favorite dish didn't go very smoothly. I used an old box of Jiffy cornbread mix, and it just didn't taste right. Luckily, I had a few more years to practice while my Grandmama was alive. She patiently talked with me on the phone to clarify the recipe and to troubleshoot.
Now that she is home in heaven it is my job every year to make her dressing in the same green tin roasting pan and bring it to my mom's house so Grandmama can grace our table again. It's an honor to walk in her shoes.
3 pouches cornbread mix (I use Jiffy) plus the milk and eggs needed for cornbread mix
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 green onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced (I admit this was not in Grandmamas original recipe)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 stick of salted butter
3 slices of day-old bread
3 cups chicken broth (I use Better than Bouillon mixed with water or homemade)
Bake the cornbread
Makes one box of cornbread mix as directed by the package, adding eggs and milk to the mix and bake in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.
Next, mix the remaining two packages of cornbread mix together with the appropriate amount of eggs and milk and bake in a 10-inch skillet. According to Grandmama, this produces the correct ratio of crust and soft cornbread middle.
This step can be done the day ahead so that the cornbread has time to cool completely before you crumble it.
Chop and saute veggies
While the cornbread is cooking, begin prepping the vegetables. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and green onion. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender but not browned, 12–15 minutes.
Stir in the sage and parsley, turn off heat and set aside.
Combining the cornbread and the veggies
Using your hands, finely crumble all of the cornbread into the most massive mixing bowl you have. Add to the cornbread, three slices of crumbled day-old bread.
Next, scoop the softened vegetables into the cornbread and pour in the chicken stock. Grandmama used a potato masher to thoroughly mix all of this together. The consistency is important here. She said the mixture should resemble cake mix before baking which is far thinner than I would have imagined. She warned me "DO NOT let it be too thick because it will bake to be very dry." Dry stuffing is the worst, isn't it? Add more chicken broth if you need to.
Pour this into a large (deep) baking pan. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes. My Grandmother baked her dressing for precisely 30 minutes, but mine usually takes an entire 45 minutes.
This is a beautiful savory dressing and will always remain my favorite part of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.