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"My perfect last meal would be: shrimp cocktail, lasagna, steak, creamed spinach, salad with bleu cheese dressing, onion rings, garlic bread, and a dessert of strawberry shortcake."
Joan Rivers (1933-2014) American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and television host

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After years of making this from scratch, I finally took time to measure and write down what I do. This traditional southern cornbread dressing is simple to make and is the taste of the Holidays. This is always cooked on the side-never stuffed in the turkey. I added stuffing to the title for those who refer to dressing as stuffing whether or not it is stuffed in the bird.

Preparation Time: cornbread made three days early; stock cooks 1 1/2 hours then cools; 20 minutes to prepare vegetables and 20 minutes to prepare dressing; bakes for 1 1/2 hours    Serving Size: 1 lasagna/dressing/stuffing pan (14x10x2)

The Cornbread, make 2 batches (make 3 days ahead of time to allow to stale)

  • 2 cups plain cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (approximate)
  • 1/4 cup shortening
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Set oven to 425°. Melt shortening in an 8-inch cast iron skillet while oven heats. When shortening is melted, pour into a heat-proof dish, set aside and return skillet to oven. Mix flour, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl. Stir in cornmeal. Crack eggs into a 2-cup measuring cup and lightly beat. Pour in enough milk to fill the 2-cup measure and stir. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg/milk mixture. Mix from the outside in with a fork until just smooth. You may need to add up to 1/4 cup more milk. DO NOT OVER MIX. Just when all is mixed, at the last minute, pour in the melted shortening and stir. Quickly pour entire mix into the hot skillet and bake 20-25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the skillet. Remove to cooling rack and allow to sit uncovered for 3 days. It is best to use stale cornbread for this dressing.

The Stock (make either the day before or early the day of)

  • 2 pounds turkey necks
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 stalks celery, preferably with leafy tops
  • 1 large carrot
  • 7 stems Italian parsley
  • 15 whole peppercorns
  • 1 large or two small bay leaves

Rinse turkey necks and place in a large stock pot. Leave skin on the onion and cut just the outermost roots off the bottom. Cut in half and add to the pot. Wash celery well and cut both in half and add to the pot. Cut only the top most part of the carrot off and add to the pot. Next rinse the parsley and give the stems a slight twist before adding to the pot. Drop in peppercorns and bay leaf. Cover with filtered water an inch above the ingredients. Bring to a boil then quickly reduce the heat and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours. Skim the top occasionally if desired. Allow to cool then remove the necks to a plate and set aside. Discard vegetables and bay leaf. Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl and set aside. Discard anything caught in the strainer. Remove meat from the neck bones and place in a small bowl.

The Dressing

  • 2 batches cornbread, stale
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 2-4 stalks celery, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 extra large eggs, hard-boiled
  • 3 tablespoons poultry seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons rubbed sage
  • neck meat
  • turkey stock
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350°. If the stock was made a day ahead, be sure to remove if from the refrigerator early enough for it to come to room temperature and for the stock to liquefy. If necessary, use the microwave to heat the stock just enough to render the stock liquid. Place the eggs in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and cover. Allow to sit 12 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water and add ice. Crack the eggs slightly and break the membrane (this allows for easier peeling.) Let sit in iced water for ten minutes to cool. Drain, peel and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cut the stale cornbread into 1 1/2 inch cubes and place in a very large bowl. Chop onions and celery and add to the bowl. Use your hands to gently combine the vegetables and bread cubes. Add the poultry seasoning and rubbed sage. Use hands to mix. Chop the eggs and add to the bowl with the reserved turkey neck meat. Add salt and pepper to taste; about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper. Use hands to combine once again, this time breaking any remaining large bread cubes down to no larger than 1/2 inch cube. It is important to retain some cubes and not mash the cornbread into crumbs.

Start piling the cornbread mixture into the baking pan, packing it down lightly. Continue to pack the pan to the very top. Place any remaining dressing mix in another smaller pan. Evenly pour the stock over the dressing in the pan one cup at a time. Wait 5 minutes before adding the next cup of stock. This will allow the stock to slowly be absorbed. It should take about 6 cups of stock for this size casserole pan. Bake at 350° for 1 1/2 hours until the top starts to brown.

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