Cornbread dressing with maple sausage...bringing back the sweet and savory classic.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the idea of adding more guests to the table could send you into orbit. Don't sweat it. There's always time for a quick menu change. If the guest list has expanded, go to plan B. Plan B is to make the cornbread dressing into a meal. By adding meat or additional veggies to any dish you can make a little go a long way.
Recently, I've enjoyed adding sausage to several of my dishes. It's like a one-stop shop. Whether it's sweet Italian, maple or plain sausage, sausage has that extra kick that elevates a recipe.
This recipe is a tribute to the 80s and 90s. Once upon a time, adding sausage. veggies, nuts, and dried fruits to cornbread dressing was all the rage. It was the newest, greatest thing in cooking...more is more. So, we're bringing it back.
Enjoy the recipe and read the tips throughout. Pay special attention to the dialogue at the end of the recipe between chef and myself.
Cornbread dressing w/ maple sausage (Serves 8)
1 lb. sweet maple sausage
1 1/2 c onion finely diced
3/4 c celery finely diced
5 slices dried white bread
6 c dried cornbread (about 2 lbs.)
2 plus cups of chicken broth (canned or box is fine but a small pack of leg quarters makes an easy broth that will pay dividends in the final dish)
3 eggs beaten
1/4 c butter plus drippings (from sausage)
2 tsp rubbed sage or 4 tsp fresh sage chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
"Using maple sausage lends to a minor sweetness that pairs very well with this savory dressing." chef
Make a pan of cornbread the night before & break into 1” pieces & let dry on a pan over night (be sure to season the cornbread too). This is building layers of flavor for later. Tear the white bread into pieces and let it dry with the cornbread.
To make the dressing start in a non-stick skillet by adding the sausage & break up as it browns (thoroughly). Remove to drain and poor off all but 2 tbs. of the drippings (save drippings for later use). Add the onion & celery all the while scrapping up any of the brown bits. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent.
In a large bowl add both breads. When onion & celery are done, add to the bread mixture along with the sausage. Beat eggs and add the reserved drippings to combine with bread mixture. Season with salt and pepper then add sage.
Mix completely and start adding broth (just as in cornbread-for a drier dressing make a drier mix and for a moister dressing add more broth). The wetter the mix the more moist it will be in the end (This is a personal choice). Add mixture to a well buttered 9x11 baking pan and bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.
Dialogue between me and chef Fleming:
Me: That sounds fantastic! I've got a question. I've never used homemade broth. Are you supposed to skim the fat off the top of the broth or send it through a sieve?
Chef Fleming: I used to skim mine religiously. And for a good clear broth YES. What I’ve started doing lately though is to leave it & the fat rises & sets up on the top after it cools. Using schmaltz to cook in is simply amazing. Talk about layers of flavor. So it’s a personal choice but normally, yes skim it.
Me: What is schmaltz?
Chef Fleming: Oh, chicken fat.
Chef Fleming: It’s great stuff. It’s better than bacon grease. I would not joke about this.
Me: How do you use schmaltz?
Chef Fleming: I use it to sauté veggies instead of olive oil. I also use it when I make fried potatoes. Just about anything you substitute out any oil. It’s FULL of flavor & it’s not a trans fat so it’s really not worse than canola or olive oil.
Me: Interesting. I didn't know. Thanks, chef.