Cornbread and Cornflakes
Many of us who celebrate Thanksgiving grew up with our mother’s dressing/stuffing being the yardstick by which all others are measured. Some swear by dressing made with Pepperidge Farm White bread. Others can’t get enough of the Wonder Country White bread variety. In our house and many southern states, cornbread or biscuits are traditional. However, my mother took the unusual step of adding corn flakes. This offers a deep corn flavor you can’t get any other way.
You can make your own cornbread or use a mix as I have here with Morrison’s Corn Kits made in Denton, TX. It’s the cornbread mix my family grew up with. Since this is a savory dish, I prefer not to use a cornbread mix that contains sugar. If I want sweetness on my cornbread, I will offer honey butter on the side as I sometimes do.
However, there is a new cornbread mix I’m eager to try, grown by Chef Sean Brock. It’s called Jimmy Red Cornbread Mix and is milled by Geechie Boy Mills out of Edisto Island, South Carolina. Geechie Boy makes many artisan Southern staples such as Carolina Gold Rice, black-eyed peas (yellow, white, blue, or Guinea Flint grits), and Sea Island red peas. Please give them a look.
Is it Stuffing or Dressing?
To simplify this age-old question, dressing is a stuffing cooked in a separate pan. Stuffing is exactly what it sounds like-dressing used to stuff a turkey or other poultry and cooked inside to absorb the natural flavors. Dressing evolved from stuffing due to the sickness many experienced from under-cooked stuffed turkey since it requires additional time to cook completely through. Extended cooking time was not a welcome idea when Thanksgiving dinner required so many other steps, so it became fashionable to cook the stuffing separately, thus dressing was born.
I like to use stock made from a roasted turkey to prepare this dish; however, my traditional homemade gravy is also in high demand at the dinner table, so I split the turkey stock from roasting in the oven traditional brown gravy as well as the cornbread stuffing. I supplement any shortcomings in quantity with homemade or store-bought chicken or turkey stock. This gives that fresh, well-seasoned taste to both.
Wine pairings for Traditional Southern Cornbread dressing:
Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon 2019
Magic Door LA CLE DE LA FEMME Champagne, 2017 Champagne, France
Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing
- large mixing bowl
- saute pan
- large 13" x 9" casserole dish
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- cutting board
- kitchen knife
- large spoon or spatula
- Plastic wrap
- 2 cups cornbread, cooked and crumbled (use your own recipe or preferably, Morrison's Corn Kits brand)
- 8 ea biscuits, baked and crumbled (2 oz./58 grams each) (Homemade or 1 can Pillsbury Grands or other store-bought)
- 3 cups corn flakes cereal
- ½ cup butter, unsalted (plus a bit more to coat baking dish)
- ¼ cup oil, avocado, or vegetable
- 2 cups celery stalks, cleaned, trimmed, and chopped
- 2 cups onions, peeled and diced (yellow or white variety)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
- 1 tbsp poultry seasoning
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tsp granulated onion
- 1½ tsp pepper, black coarse grind
- 1½ tsp salt
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup, condensed (Campbells 10.5oz/295g)
- 1 can cream of celery soup, condensed (Campbells 10.5oz/295g)
- 1 cup green onion or scallions, sliced thin (white part included)
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 4 cups turkey drippings or turkey stock (chicken stock can be substituted or supplemented)
- 3 whole egg, whisked
- Prepare cornbread and biscuits according to the recipe. Crumble or slice the cornbread into medium-sized chunks. Measure out the Cornbread/Biscuits/Corn Flakes in a huge mixing bowl and reserve.
- Butter a 9" x 13" x 2" (23 x 33 x 5 cm) casserole dish. Reserve.
- Dice 2 cups of white or yellow onion and 2 cups of celery.
- Mince 4 large cloves of garlic.
- In a large sauté pan over medium, heat the oil and butter. Once the oil/butter has come up to temperature (about 1-2 minutes), add the diced onion, celery, and minced garlic. Stir occasionally.
- Once the onion/celery/garlic mixture has cooked halfway, add the sage, poultry seasoning, thyme, granulated onion, black pepper, and salt. Stir to mix the seasonings in.
- After the mixture has cooked through and is soft, add the turkey or chicken stock. Stir to combine. Continue cooking over medium heat, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the condensed cream of chicken and cream of celery soups to the vegetable/stock mixture.
- Using a whisk, slowly incorporate the soups into the vegetable/stock mixture. Once everything is fully mixed, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Reserve.
- Add the chopped scallions and parsley to the large mixing bowl with the cornbread/biscuit/cornflakes. Using your hands or a large spoon, toss the ingredients together.
- In a separate bowl, crack and whisk together 3 whole large eggs. Add the eggs to the bread/cornflake mixture. Mix gently with your hands or large spoon. Reserve.
- Once the vegetable/stock mixture has cooled completely, add this to the cornbread/biscuit/cornflake mixture. Gently mix and try to preserve some of the large chunks of cornbread and biscuits.
- Once everything has been thoroughly combined, add the mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Baking the Cornbread Dressing
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C
- Remove the Cornbread Dressing from the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour.
- After one hour, check to see if the top has started to brown. The Cornbread Dressing should be just set or even slightly wobbly. If the top is golden brown, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 8-10 minutes. To double-check, the internal temperature of the dressing should be 160°F/71°C. Serve warm.