Friday, November 12, 2010

The Thanksgiving Star...Cajun Cornbread Dressing

A recent conversation...
  • Classmate: So, do you make some awesome dish for Thanksgiving?
  • Me: Well, my absolute favorite part of the meal is the dressing. My family has this special dressing with sausage. In fact, I brought back a special sausage from the south, because the sausage we've tried up here doesn't compare.
  • Him: So, is this some kind of gravy?
  • Me: No, it's dressing. You know, dressing. As in, Turkey and.
  • Him: Like a salad dressing?
  • Me: (Realizing now that the kind of dressing that I'm talking about is a foreign entity to him) Hmmm. How do I explain? I guess it's like stuffing. But it's not stuffing. We don't put it inside the bird.
  • Him: So it's stuffing, but you call it dressing?
  • Me: Yes, but it's not stuffing. It's different. We don't put it inside the bird. And it's made with cornbread. In a casserole dish...
I still don't think this poor soul quite has a firm understanding of what dressing is. And he cannot possibly understand how fabulous it is. Otherwise, he would be beating our apartment door down for me to make some right now!

What I told him is true, though. It is the best part of the Thanksgiving meal. And the sausage that we use? Well, there's just no comparison to Conecuh sausage. If you live anywhere in the Southeast, try to get your hands on some. If you can readily get your hands on some, I am jealous of you. We brought enough back with us at the end of the summer to last us until our trip home at Christmas, including enough to make this dressing.  If you aren't blessed to have access to this wonderful gift, use the best spicy smoked sausage that you can find.

I will be honest with you; this dressing does require a little bit of time to put together.  But it can be made in advance and frozen for several weeks, making the actual day of the feast much simpler.  And the praise you will receive is well worth the effort. 

Cajun Cornbread Dressing

From my Mom's kitchen, adapted from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen

For the cornbread:

2 cups buttermilk
8 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1 cup Aunt Jamima buttermilk pancake mix
4 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Butter a large skillet or 9 x 13 baking dish.  Combine all ingredients and bake for 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool. 

For the dressing:

3 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
6 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
1 ½ cups finely chopped bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 bay leaves
1 pound link smoked sausage
1 14 ½ oz. can chicken stock or homemade chicken or turkey stock
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
6 eggs, beaten
Butter two casserole dishes, one large (9 x 13) and one small (8 x 8). 

Thoroughly combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. 

Boil sausage in a pan in 2 inches of water for 12 minutes.  Drain the water and grind the sausage in a food processor.  Set aside. 

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic and bay leaves. Sauté about 2 minutes on high heat. Add seasoning mix and continue cooking until vegetables are barely wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ground sausage and stock; cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off heat. Remove bay leaves.

In the large bowl, crumble the cornbread.  Add the milk and eggs, stirring well.  Add the vegetable and sausage mixture to this and mix well.  Divide the dressing between the two buttered casserole dishes. 

Bake at 350 until brown on top and bubbly in the middle, about 45 minutes.

Freezing instructions: If you decide to make this in advance and freeze it, wrap it well with aluminum foil and freeze.  To defrost, move the frozen casseroles to the refrigerator for 36 hours.  Put the defrosted casseroles in a cold oven.  Turn the oven to 350 and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until bubbly.  Do not overbake. 

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Lauren said...

HOLLA! So excited to chow down on this when we come up!

DessertForTwo said...

Oh yum! Thanks for sharing this!

I find that the rule of dressing vs. stuffing is something only heard of in the South. I get confused looks from people in Cali when I try to explain the difference :)

Dinetonite said...

wow! That was looking Delicious

Cleo said...

Looks good. No Conecah sausage here in Ft Worth so is it like a spicy Hillshire Farms or more like Andouille? What would you add to make up for a bland sausage?

Barefoot Belle said...

Hi Cleo,
Either would work fine. A friend used Andouille last year and said that it turned out just fine for him. If you use a regular sausage, you could up the three peppers by 1/4 tsp each, but I think it would be just fine as is, too.


Thanks so much for linking up to This Week's Cravings, make sure to come back next week for another exciting new theme!

lori.saunders said...

Sounds yummy. For Cleo in Ft. Worth, we can't go without our Conecuh ( we live in FW, too)- so the good news is... you can order it online! It is definitely the best!!

Cleo said...

I made this for our office party today and it was a big hit. Several requests for recipe ...maybe I'll share.
I bumped the spices to "rounded" amounts & doubled the celery.
Froze it for two days uncooked, thawed and decided to cook it as per directions in a crock pot bowl. Worked great and I could serve it hot. Thanks!

Ali said...

My favorite part of the Thanksgiving menu is the dressing too. This looks amazing, thank you so much for the recipe.

BigBearswife said...

im always looking for new thanksgiving ideas! love this!

Aschei said...

Being a Southern gal, I am always looking for new twists on my traditional dressing and ran across yours - Sounds Yummy! I was introduced to Conecuh sausage a few yrs back and wanted to share their link...they deliver!!

pam said...

Do you cook and then freeze or just mix, freeze, defrost and then cook?

Dorothy at Belle of the Kitchen said...

Pam, that's a great question. I freeze, unbaked, then defrost and cook. Because it will still be cold when you put it in the oven, you will need to give it more baking time, even up to an hour. Just watch it, and when it bubbles in the middle and is brown around the outside, it is done.

Gabesmommy said...

Is it the Aunt Jemima Complete or Original pancake mix?

Dorothy at Belle of the Kitchen said...

Hi Gabesmommy,
It's Aunt Jemima Buttermilk pancake mix. It's better to use the (not complete) mix if you can find it, but the complete mix will work just as well. Enjoy!

carmela chatman said...

Sounds yummy! Can't wait till I make it then taste it. My kids grandmother is from Louisiana and I love her cooking!

Ginger Huffman said...

Hi! I found this on Pinterest and we gave it a shot. It was a really yummy dressing, but my husband is in LOVE with your cornbread recipe!! He had one he was using, but tried yours and is won over! So thank you for posting your recipe for the cornbread in addition to the dressing.

Dorothy at Belle of the Kitchen said...

Ginger, I am so glad that you enjoyed it! The cornbread is delicious, isn't it? The original recipe (known in our family as "Lula's Cornbread") calls for twice the amount of butter, if you ever want to try that. It is wonderful as cornbread muffins (bake for 15-20 minutes in hot greased muffin tins at 450 degrees). Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Do You Have to use buttermilk mix

Dorothy at Belle of the Kitchen said...

Hi! I'm sure that a regular pancake mix will work, although I can only attest to the buttermilk pancake mix. Enjoy!

Danielle Fore said...

Hello! I have been looking for a cajun shrimp and grits cornbread dressing recipe like this for a while. I realize that shrimp and grits are not in the ingredients listed, but I think it would be possible to add them and would taste amazing! Just curious though, if I did add the shrimp, do you think I should cook the shrimp BEFORE putting it in the dressing or cook the shrimp IN the dressing? Obviously, my concerns are the shrimp not being cooked till done or being over cooked.

Dorothy at Belle of the Kitchen said...

Hi Danielle, You could possibly add some cooked stone-ground grits in place of some of the cornbread and could add the shrimp in as well. I would not pre-cook the shrimp, as they would certainly be cooked by the time the casserole bubbles--they don't take long.