Traditional Southern Cornbread DressingSoutherners sure do love their traditional cornbread dressing and some of them will get all "stuffy" over what constitutes dressing and what constitutes stuffing. In my humble opinion, it mostly just depends on where you were born!
In the South, there's really no difference other than whether the materials are cooked in the bird or out of the bird. What truly sets apart a Southern dressing from a Northern stuffing, generally speaking, is that in the North they prepare their stuffing (or dressing) from breads that are cut into cubes and their dressings are more dry. They also typically call it stuffing, whether it's stuffed into something or not.
In the South, our dressing is prepared from cornbread and breads that are baked, staled and then crumbled and to which raw eggs - and sometimes chopped boiled eggs as well - are added, giving a "fluff" to our dressing. Our dressing is more wet before it's cooked and thanks to the eggs, fills out much like a souffle once baked.
When we "stuff" it in the bird, Southerners typically call it stuffing, at least where I'm from, even though as terms go, our stuffed dressing is very different from our Northern neighbors stuffing, although we certainly also still call it dressing even when it's stuffed in a turkey, because, well, that's what it is! When we put it in a pan instead, we usually just call it dressing, not stuffing.
That's pretty much the reality of it all folks, so how about let's just stop the whole what's "authentic" and what's not silliness, eat, and be thankful for each other's company and quit the fussin' about whether we think it's stuffing or dressing, or what is wrong, or right, or what we think makes things different. It is the season of giving thanks after all, and besides, whatever you grew up with it, what your mama did, and what you do in your own Southern kitchen is right, bottom line. It's all good, so how about let's just eat!
I didn't exactly grow up with dressing made with cornbread. My southern born and bred Mama, the rebel that she was, always made an herb bread dressing, and often using the Pepperidge Farm seasoned bread crumbs as her base. Based on the sales of that product here in the South, she clearly wasn't alone. She also both stuffed her dressing (stuffing) IN the turkey, with a pan of the excess served alongside an oyster dressing for Daddy, that I also happened to love. So I guess since my Mama stuffed the turkey and served it in a pan, we had both stuffing and dressing! Weren't we just lucky?
Now some of us Southerners like the dressing made with only cornbread. I like that, but I'm more in the other camp because not only did I grow up with a bread dressing, but I also like the added body that comes from using bread.
You can use any kind of bread, and often we use the accumulation from those one of two leftover rolls or biscuits that we've tossed in the freezer throughout the year. You can use sandwich bread, homemade bread, French bread, but whatever bread you like, do toast it before crumbling it.
Taste the dressing before you add in the raw eggs, because the flavor then is pretty much gonna be the flavor when it's baked. Adjust the seasonings as needed, then add the eggs and add in additional stock if it isn't moist enough. A lot of us Southerners add in boiled egg, so if you like, add 2 eggs raw, and 2 eggs boiled and chopped. Mama only used raw eggs.
Stock measurements in dressing recipes are always a simply a guide. Put in a small amount of liquid, stir and add more liquid to get it to the consistency of a cooked oatmeal. The dressing pictured at the top was prepared with about 5 cups of stock and baked covered, resulting in a very moist but fluffy dressing which is the way that I like it. Use more or less to get the consistency you like.
I like to use Bell's seasoning, a salt-free blend of herbs like rosemary, oregano, sage and marjoram, plus some ginger, and thankfully one that has become more widely available in the South, especially around the holidays. If you don't have access to Bell's seasoning and you don't feel like making up a copycat batch, just use a couple pinches of some or all of those seasonings, or just good ole sage, and don't forget... always taste and adjust before you bake!
Stop by and check out my cornbread and oyster dressing and my other traditional southern Thanksgiving dishes if you have time. Some additional recipe ideas for Christmas can be found here. You'll want to check out my 7 Top Tips to Perfect Your Holiday Stuffing.
MJR said: I am an Oregonian, so good southern food is hard to find around here. I made your cornbread stuffing (with the addition of spicy sausage) for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a huge hit both times.
Dressing... a perfect receptacle for just a bit of homemade gravy. Let's make some!
Recipe: Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min |Cook time: 45 min | Yield: About 10 to 12 servings
- 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 stalks (ribs) of celery, chopped
- 6 cups of cooked, crumbled stale cornbread
- 6 cups of dry, toasted bread, crumbled (sliced bread, leftover biscuits or rolls)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste,
- 1 teaspoon of sage (or Bell's seasoning), or to taste, optional
- 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
- 1 cup of turkey gravy (canned is fine)
- 4 to 6 cups of turkey or chicken broth or stock, more or less
- 4 large eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and set aside. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and celery; add the salt, Cajun seasoning, pepper, sage and poultry seasoning. Continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Combine the crumbled cornbread and bread into a large bowl. Add sauteed veggies, scraping out skillet; add the gravy and 4 cups of the stock. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Add the beaten eggs; gently toss. Add more of the broth as needed, taking care not to make the dressing too soupy. Dressing should be the consistency of cooked oatmeal. Lightly spoon into the casserole dish, but do not pack down. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. For a moister stuffing, baked covered. For a drier stuffing with a crunchy top, bake uncovered.
Cook's Notes: Make cornbread a day or two ahead when possible and allow it to go stale. This dressing is also excellent with cooked turkey or chicken. Mix in about 2 cups of roughly shredded, cooked chicken or turkey before baking.
For Sausage Stuffing: Brown and drain a 1 pound roll of Jimmy Dean pork sausage. Set aside and stir into the dressing just before it goes into the oven.
Make Ahead Tip: While dressing is best when freshly assembled and baked, you may prep most of the ingredients ahead to save time. To prepare entire dish ahead, assemble all the way up to the baking stage the day before, using additional broth to make it more soupy, but don't bake it. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Any longer ahead than that freeze it. You'll need to allow for a day for it to thaw in the fridge before baking.
How to fix a too dry or too wet stuffing: If you find your stuffing is too dry, add additional warmed broth to it, stir well, and return to the oven, checking periodically. If the stuffing is overly wet and too gummy, cook it uncovered for a bit longer, checking periodically. Be sure to check out my 7 Top Tips to Perfect Your Holiday Stuffing.
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