I had a Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment in Prato a few years ago, half of our guests were American and the other half Italian. It was a wonderful meal and a great opportunity to share with our Italian friends some traditional American recipes that don’t have to do with beef patties and buns. But I was surprised that I was the only one who knew about cornbread dressing, a must have on my family’s Thanksgiving table. I knew that it was Southern, but I thought that it was like collard greens and everyone had at least heard of it. Calling it dressing is very Southern, it would only be called stuffing if it had been stuffed in the bird, made in its own juices makes it a dressing.
Of course everyone loved it, Italian and American.
Since the weather is so grim in Charleston, and I have comfort food on my mind, I figured that I would dedicate the next few posts to Southern sides. Most restaurants that serve Southern fare give a few options on their menus, meat and two sides, meat and three sides, meat and four sides or a plate of sides. You usually have a few meats and at least 30 sides to choose from, overcooked vegetables, casseroles or this dressing that my sister and I grew up eating at Mary Mac’s Tea Room on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta. This was our favorite restaurant as kids, penciling in our order on the little green tickets, the mural of 1980’s downtown Atlanta on the wall, big plastic cups of fruit punch, cinnamon rolls served with the cornbread muffins and yeast rolls before the meal. We both ordered the same thing each time, baked chicken and dressing with a side of macaroni and cheese, a very pale meal, mmmmm but we loved it.
This is also a great way to use leftover cornbread, never let anything go to waste, from my Dutch-Jewish mother to my Neapolitan husband.
My sister was kind enough to email me this recipe a few weeks ago from the Mary Mac’s cookbook. With my plethora of cookbooks, two of them dedicated to Southern recipes I wasn’t satisfied and needed this specific recipe for my cornbread dressing. Thank you sister mine.
Cornbread Dressing adapted from the Mary Mac’s Cookbook
- 2 to 3 cups of stale cornbread or 9 cornbread muffins (the original recipe calls for 6 cornbread muffins and 3 yeast rolls, I prefer to only use cornbread)
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups of chicken stock (you can use veggie stock, but the fat from the chicken stock binds everything together much better)
- ½ teaspoon of white pepper
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ cup of chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ¼ cup melted butter
Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add chicken stock, pepper, salt, onion, celery and butter and stir well. Crumble the stale cornbread into the mixture, pour into a casserole dish and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°. When the mixture has set, bake it for at least 30 minutes or until the top is browned and when you stick a toothpick in the dressing the toothpick comes clean.
*recipe for cornbread follows
Southern Cornbread from the back of White Lily Buttermilk enriched White Cornmeal Mix
- 2 cups Cornmeal
- 1¼ to 1½ cups buttermilk or milk
- ¼ vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
- 1 to 2 tbsp. sugar
Heat oven to 425°F. Place an 8- or 10-inch heavy skillet that has been coated with vegetable oil in the oven to heat.
Combine all ingredients stirring just until moistened (batter will be lumpy).
Pour batter into heated skillet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for 10-inch skillet or 25 to 30 minutes for 8.inch skillet. Remove from pan and serve.
To make muffins or corn sticks: Spray 12 cup muffin pan or corn stick oan wirg no-stick cooking spray. Heat oven to 425°F. Place corn stick pan (but not muffin pan) in oven to heat. Pour batter into prepared pans 2/3 full. (You may not use all of the batter.) Bake 20 to 25 minutes for muffins or 12 to 15 minutes for corn sticks.
Makes 1 pan