There are many different kinds of Thanksgiving stuffings and most people have pretty strong feelings about which kind they want to see on their holiday table--it can be a scary sort of loyalty. Some swear by stuffing the turkey with their grandma's favorite sausage and cornbread variety while others don't let the must-have Turkey Day side anywhere near the bird, opting instead for the safer "salmonella-free" casserole route. There are stuffings filled with oysters or chestnuts and those made with brioche, French or sour dough bread --even wild rice. And some people don't refer to it as stuffing at all, calling it "dressing" instead. For years, my mom's been making a savory vegetarian based one with tons of mushrooms and onions and it's a wonderful classic but this year, continuing in my strangely rebellious pre-Thanksgiving spirit, I thought I'd mix it up a bit and go in a sweeter direction--hence, this Fruity Cornbread stuffing. It's chock full of apples, prunes, dried apricots, and buttery homemade cornbread. Time to start some new traditions!!
Part of the reason for the deliciousness of this stuffing is the homemade cornbread. It comes together really easily and has so much flavor and texture. I had to exercise all my self restraint to not keep popping those little yellow cubes into my mouth as I was preparing this.
After you've sauteed the onions, apples and celery, you basically just toss everything together, scrape it all into a casserole dish, pour some chicken broth on top of the whole thing and bake.
What emerges is a savory/sweet crusty unusual (at least to me--maybe this is the kind of stuffing you grew up on) side that will definitely keep the ho-hum from your holiday table.
There's so much variety here--with every bite you never know what you'll get. It might be a forkful of velvety sweet cooked prunes, tart chewy dried apricots and crusty cornbread. Or you might spear up a tender chunk of apple, some softened celery and savory onion. You just never know and that's part of this stuffing adventure--so many tastes and textures for your mouth and eye-catching colors!! It's stuff like this that gets me excited--I know, I know, I need to get out more. What will your stuffing adventure be?
Fruity Cornbread Stuffing
Makes 6-8 servings
You must make the cornbread at least one day in advance so that it has time to dry out.
Prep Time for the Cornbread: 10 minutes, plus 30 minutes to rest; Bake Time for Cornbread: 40 minutes; Prep Time for Stuffing: 25 minutes; Bake Time for Stuffing: 40 minutes
For the Cornbread
- 1 1/3 cups coarse stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, well-shaken
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
For the Stuffing
- ! recipe of Cornbread, cut into slices and then into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2 large Macintosh or Golden Delicious apples, unpeeled, but cored and chopped
- 5-6 stalks celery, chopped
- 24 prunes, chopped
- 15 dried apricots, chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1. To make the cornbread: Butter a 9/5x3 inch loaf metal pan. In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the buttermilk, melted butter and beaten eggs and use a wooden spoon to stir together well until everything is moistened. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. Pour the batter into the buttered pan, smooth the top and bake for about 40 minutes, until the bread is browned around the edges and a tester inserted into the center, comes out clean. The cornbread will be pale on top. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. When fully cool, slice into 1 inch wide slices. Place on a baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel loosely and let dry out overnight. Before you're reading to make the stuffing, cut the slices into cubes.
3. To make the stuffing: Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter a 9x13-inch glass baking dish and set aside.
4. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes, until they are softened. Add the apples and celery and cook for another 10 minutes, until apples and celery are tender. Scrape out the pan into a very large bowl. Add the prunes, apricots, salt, pepper and thyme and toss together. Then add the cubed bread and toss well. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and pour the broth over it evenly.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top starts to get crusty and browned. You can definitely make this early in the day and keep it at room temperature, reheating it just before serving or make it the day ahead, cover and refrigerate it, bring it to room temp before serving and then reheat.
Note: Recipe adapted from the Epicurious Cookbook by Tanya Wenman Steel. I left out 1 tablespoon fennel seeds and toyed around with the proportions of other stuff.