There are many varieties of this recipe, and every year I look at my mom’s recipe, Aunt Clara’s recipe, and even KK’s mom Ople’s recipe and I usually try to take some of all their ideas. Some of them add crushed saltines or stale buttermilk biscuits as well, and sometimes I add them. This is the one I generally end up doing, and we are very happy with it. My mom’s recipe, as well as others, call for raw eggs to be added, but I have found that it makes the dressing too “congealed” for my taste, so I don’t add them. Justin used to beg me to add oysters at one end of the dressing, and for years I used giblets at the other end; however, I am happy using the Italian sausage in this recipe and foregoing the other protein choices. Also diced, boiled eggs were added by all of the moms, but I put them in my giblet gravy so I don’t think they are necessary in the dressing either. If your memory is of boiled eggs in your dressing, then by all means boil and dice about 6 eggs and add them. The bulk of this recipe came from a Food Network Magazine of several years ago, and I tweaked it to include some of the mom’s ideas. Tasting it as you go is the best way to ensure you are happy with the seasonings; others are always happy to give you their opinions as well if you are lucky enough to have someone in the kitchen with you while you are cooking.
2 pkg. Martha White Cornbread mix (should make about 6 c. crumbled cornbread)8 c. stale, good-quality white bread, toasted, and torn into small pieces
1 lb. Italian sausage
6 TB butter + more for dots on top
2 c. diced onion
2 c. diced celery
Bunch of green onions, diced, optional
4 c. chopped, fresh spinach
About 1 TB minced sage
About 1 TB minced thyme
Cayenne to taste
About ¼ c. chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
About 1/3 c. pine nuts, optional
About 1/3 c. grated parmesan
About 6 c. chicken or turkey broth (homemade if you can; if not then store-bought)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Poultry seasoning, optional
Make the cornbread according to the recipe on the packages a day or two before you are making the dressing so that it has time to get stale. Do the same with the toasted bread (and biscuits if you decide to try them.) Crumble all of it into a very large bowl and cover with a tea towel. At least once a day stir it so the bread on the bottom of the bowl gets a chance to dry out as well.
The day you are making the dressing sauté the sausage in a skillet, crumbling it as it cooks completely. Take the sausage out and leave the drippings in the pan. Add the butter and once it is melted, add the onions and celery, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally so it won’t stick. Pour them over the bread mixture and stir in the rest of the ingredients except the broth. Begin pouring the broth over the mixture, stirring as you go. You want it to be soupy so it will stay moist while it cooks. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. At this point you may want to add more sage or even a small amount of poultry seasoning and of course salt and pepper until you like the flavor of it.
Butter a 9X13 baking dish and transfer the dressing into it and dot with butter. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes; uncover and bake until golden and firm, about 30-40 minutes.