In this third post in a series of three about nontraditional turkey dressings, I feature a recipe from Evelyn Cheatham, friend, chef and executive director of Worth Our Weight.

This is truly a dressing and not a stuffing. It must be cooked separately, not in the cavity of the turkey, where it would become soggy. If you’re looking for something corn-based to go inside the turkey, try the Polenta Stuffing from the first post in the series. Evelyn gave me this dressing years ago, when she explained that she usually uses chicken stock to moisten the cornbread before baking it. You can, if you prefer, use turkey stock; if you don’t have any, simply simmer the neck and innards in chicken stock, broth or water for an hour or so.

Evelyn’s Rustic Cornbread Dressing

Serves 8 to 10

  • 10 cups day-old corn bread, crumbled (see recipe below)
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 pound mushrooms of choice, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper in a mill
  • Pinch of chipotle powder or more to taste, optional
  • Optional:  Dried fruit, such as apricots and cranberries; roasted chestnuts; small freshly shucked oysters
  • Turkey stock or chicken stock
  1. Begin the day or morning before serving the dressing.  Spread the corn bread crumbs over a baking sheet and let them get very dry.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saute pan, add the onion and celery and cook until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they have released their liquid, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Increase the heat to high and simmer until the liquid is evaporated.  Season with salt and pepper and, if using, the chipotle power.
  3. Prepare any of the other optional ingredients you will use.  Cut dried apricots and chestnuts into small dice. Drain the oysters and reserve the liquor.
  4. To finish the dressing, put the cornbread into a large bowl and toss with the onion and mushroom mixture.   Add the optional ingredients and toss again. Taste and correct the seasoning.
  5. Put the dressing in a baking dish and moisten it with stock (if using oysters, add the strained .  Do not add to much; it should be slightly moist but not soggy.  Cover the pan with its lid or a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving alongside roasted turkey.

Buttermilk Cornbread You can use any cornbread for the dressing but if you don’t have a favorite recipe, this one is reliably delicious and easy to make.

Makes 8 or 9 pieces

  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter
  • 3 cups cornmeal, preferably white
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 ounces butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F.  Put the clarified butter into a large (9 x 15 or the equivalent) baking dish or large skillet and put it into the oven.
  2. Working quickly, stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, beaten eggs and melted butter.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  4. Carefully remove the hot dish from the oven and pour the batter into the pan.   Shake the batter into the corners of the pan and then return it quickly to the oven.
  5. Bake the cornbread for 20 to 25 minutes, until it’s lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and serve warm, with butter alongside.  To use in stuffing, let cool for several hours before crumbling.

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