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Have you planned your Thanksgiving dinner yet? At one time, the answer to that around here would have been “yes” – even if you asked me in July. That was because we had the same thing every year. It was hardly what you would call a bad thing either, because what we had was very good.
Things are different now though. We are all getting more adventurous in our old age, not to mention the fact that I have recipes to test. It’s awfully rough on the family to have to suffer through these trials, but they are all a sturdy lot and manage to muscle their way through. Turns out it’s not such a bad thing to have one of your guests, who is also one of the main cooks, come with a few new tricks up her sleeve
After years of always having my sister and brother in law come to our house for Thanksgiving, these days, it is easier for us to go there, so we get to enjoy Thanksgiving where the pilgrims did, in Massachusetts. Over the years, we have assumed our roles for which part of the meal to make. My sister always makes the actual turkey, an awesome apple pie, and various other sides and little additions, while I make pumpkin pie, the stuffing, the gravy and roasted veggies of one sort or another.
For years, we really did the turkey together, because despite dire warnings and predictions of doom, we put the stuffing in the turkey. It’s how we liked it and no one ever died, so we were like the last people in the country who still roasted a stuffed turkey. Then, because my sister’s oven was not behaving itself one year, we decided to cook the stuffing in a dish, and roast an unstuffed bird. Which is, of course, much easier because you don’t have to contend with the internal temperature of the stuffing, just the bird.
Then a couple years ago, I decided to try a cornbread stuffing again, which had previously gotten too soggy inside the turkey. And if it’s going to be cornbread, why not spice things up a little and throw in some cumin and garlic and chili powder? In order to hold up in the dressing, this cornbread recipe is a little sturdier than what I would normally make, like my Buttermilk Cornbread.
But now I have the dilemma of deciding what to call it. It’s always been stuffing for us, but if it’s not stuffed into anything, isn’t it dressing now? My sister, Louise says that she heard Alton Brown insist that it must be called dressing, not stuffing. And despite his current involvement with a show that is one of the most egregious abuses of television ever [I’m looking at you, Cutthroat Kitchen] I still think for the most part he knows what he’s talking about. So – Southwest Cornbread Dressing it is.
Southwest Cornbread Dressing
- 1 & 1/2 cups cornmeal [preferably a coarse whole grain type but regular will work]
- 1 & 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 cup milk
- 2 slices hearty white or whole wheat bread cut in cubes the same size as the cornbread
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion cut in a large dice - 3/4 inch pieces
- 3 medium stalks of celery cut in thin slices
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoon poultry seasoning [I like Bell's]
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 small to medium garlic clove shredded with a micro-plane [do this right into the pan - easier]
- 1 to 2 cups turkey or chicken stock divided
- 4 - 5 sprigs fresh cilantro chopped
Make the Cornbread
- Preheat the oven to 375º. Generously butter a 10 x 10 baking dish, or a couple of 9 x 5 bread pans.
- Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
- In a smaller bowl, or right in a 2 cup measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, oil and milk.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry one and and fold together just until combined. it will be a shaggy batter, and a few spots of flour showing is fine - don't ever mix.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted near the center comes out completely clean.
- Cool completely, and then turn out onto a cutting board, and cut into 1 inch cubes. Place the cubes on a big baking sheet. Add the cubes of white or whole wheat bread and leave out over night to dry out. This can be done a few days ahead of time if you like, but refrigerate the dry cubes in a ziplock after 24 hours.
Make the Dressing
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil
- Add the onion and celery, sprinkle very lightly with salt, and saute over low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes until quite soft.
- Add the butter to the pan and stir in to melt it.
- Add the thyme, poultry seasoning, chili powder, paprika, cumin and garlic, and saute for a minute or so, to wake up the spices.
- Stir in about 1/2 cup of the turkey or chicken broth, making sure to incorporate everything evenly.
- Generously butter a 3 quart casserole.
- Put the bread cubes in a bowl large enough to hold them.
- Sprinkle the chopped fresh cilantro over the bread.
- Pour the onion and spice mixture evenly over the bread cubes, and gently toss to combine.
- Pour the bread into the prepared dish - don't pack it it, just leave it loose.
- Drizzle the remaining stock over the top slowly - it will trickle down, so no need to mix it in.
- Cover tightly with foil.
- Bake at 350º for 30 minutes, remove foil and continue baking until it is very hot all through, and the top is brown and crispy. Serve hot
- Refrigerate leftovers.
I’ve had some good ideas before, but this is right up there at the top of the list – it will add something really special to your Thanksgiving table – I promise!