Hey Hey Hey!! It's been a crazy two weeks between work, Orlando and Homecoming, actually The Greatest Homecoming On Earth at NCA&T, my alma mater. That being said, I missed valuable cooking and posting time, but some changes have occurred. I actually found out that I am gluten sensitive. It really saddens my heart to have this confirmed, because I feared I was for a few years, but love eating everything and number one on that list is BREAD! The effects of it on my body though, aren't something I am willing to compromise for.
In addition to that news, Thanksgiving is JUST around the corner. This will be my first time sharing Thanksgiving recipes in this format, but I am very excited to do so. This recipe is so good and savory, but at the same time has just the right amount of sweetness that will keep everyone coming back for more. I told ya'll about my Big Mama before and she's the driving force behind this one as well. Whenever I am in NC for Thanksgiving (which is most times), I look forward to this the most. We call it dressing down south because it does not get stuffed into anything! Instead, it's mixed until it's very moist, and then pressed into a baking sheet, then cut into slices for eating afterward. While I love that version, I still love the texture of toasted bread tops and varying pieces of the different elements in the stuffing, so I created my own.
There are fewer things that give you a bigger sense of pride than when you hear, "This xxx is so good!! Who made this?!" at Thanksgiving dinner. And this recipe will definitely keep anyone from turning their plates upside down in the trash! The highlights of this dish is that you can make it gluten free, you can make it vegetarian and you can make it just full of delicious sausage and sage to your own specifications and finally, you can mostly make this ahead and then just assemble and bake the day of. This is a two part recipe: The cornbread, then the stuffing, so it's kind of a bonus! Because who doesn't love cornbread all year around?
Scroll all the way to the bottom for just the recipe, or continue reading for a detailing of the process!
I prefer to bake my cornbread in a cast iron skillet that has been heated in the oven with butter inside. This way, when you pour in the batter, it begins cooking the edges and the end result is crispy outside with a soft, fluffy inside. So the first thing you want to do, is get your oven preheated to 425 degrees and add 2-3 tablespoons to the pan.
Next, melt the remaining butter in a pan and, once melted, pour into your mixing bowl. Allow to cool slightly before proceeding. Before you begin your batter, put your skillet into the oven and let the pan head and butter melt.
Once the butter is cool enough to touch and hold for a few seconds, add your sugar. I like turbinado sugar because it still retains its natural molasses and has a deep, earthy flavor. Because of this, you can sub it in for sugar at 3/4 for every 1 cup of refined sugar, saving you a few calories per recipe. Now you want to whisk to combine these ingredients until you get one cohesive liquid, without breaks between the sugar and fat.
Once you get there, do the same with the eggs, adding one at a time. This ensures that everything is incorporated and you will get a nice light texture in your mixture.
When your eggs are fully incorporated, add in all the dry mixture and whisk until fully combined and there are no lumps in the batter. be sure not to overmix, stopping when flour is incorporated
Alternate between the cornmeal and the buttermilk until you get a uniform batter. You will have some lumps in the batter, depending on the fineness of your cornmeal, and this is ok.
Using an oven mitt, remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a heat safe surface. Immediately pour the batter into the pan, being careful not to splash the butter out of the pan. It WILL be hot! Place the cornbread back into the oven and bake for 20 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan.
At this point, you can stop for just the cornbread, but if you're feeling frisky, you can work on the rest of the stuffing for a thanksgiving side everyone can enjoy!
While the cornbread is in the oven, I start on my filling. To do this, I chop all of my filling vegetables and herbs. The flavors of this recipe are really simple and classic to bring back those fond memories of the holidays whenever you eat this. It's important to get the celery and onions to the same size when you chop so that they will cook evenly and the flavors will meld in each bite. Once everything is chopped, move on to your sausage.
In a medium skillet, add in your sausage and press it into a flat disk. I use this "smash burger" technique because it allows for maximum browning on each side and reduces the cooking time. For more information on this technique, check out the Serious Eats blog post on it. Cook the sausage until it easily releases from the pan and flip it over and repeat. On the flip side, the cooking time will be significantly less, as you have mostly cooked it through. Break it apart into pieces that will be used in the stuffing and finish cooking it through.
Remove from the pan, and immediately add onion and celery. Cook until just softened and add the garlic and sage. If needed, add a teaspoon of fat to the pan to get an even fry. I used duck fat here, because why not? Cook for another 2 minutes and add the sausage back to the pan. To this, add the seasonings and give it a quick stir to combine and cook for another 30 seconds.
Next add in the chicken stock and the cream soup and stir to to make sure it's fully incorporated. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover and turn off the heat, leaving it on the eye. At this point, your cornbread should be out of the oven and cooling. In my experience, I found that letting the sausage mixture come down in temperature helps with the end dish texture, so it's ok for this to sit while you do the next steps.
The great thing about any stuffing is that it's not too mushy. You get this texture by drying out the bread. Some people choose to leave the bread out so that it gets stale. My preferred method is toasting the pieces in the oven. When you do this method, you have another opportunity for a layer of flavor by seasoning the crumbs. Because we have enough flavor in the filling, I just leave it as it. To do this also, simply cut the bread into 1 inch cubes and lay out on a baking sheet, making sure they are in an even layer. Bake them in a 325 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until your desired brownness is achieved.
Finally, we get to assemble our dish. In your baking dish (or the same skillet you cooked your cornbread), add in bread crumbs to fill the dish. On top of that, pour in half of your filling and mix with a spoon. Continue adding in your filling, until it is all mixed. If needed, add in up to another 1/4 cup of stock to moisten. Finish with a drizzle of buttermilk and a pinch of salt and a little chopped sage and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. At this point, the top of the cornbread should be browned and there will be liquid in the pan, but it will be absorbed into the finished dish while cooling.
Now, you can eat!! Well, you do have to let it cook first, if you can. At which point, all liquid will be absorbed for the most perfect fluffy, moist, delicious cornbread stuffing you can imagine!
Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Gluten Free Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing
- Author: Monique Manning
- Servings: 12
- Nutrition per serving: 147 Calories, 9g Fat, 12.4g Net Carbs, 2.5g Protein (Cornbread)
- Nutrition per serving: 214 Calories, 14.7g Fat, 14 Net Carbs, 6.5g Protein
- 1/2 cup Butter, divided
- 1/4 cup Raw Sugar
- 2 Eggs
- *1/2 cup Gluten Free Flour
- 1/2 cup Oat Flour
- 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 Cup Gluten Free Cornmeal**
- 1 Cup Low Fat Buttermilk
- 8oz ground sausage, gluten free
- 1 Small Onion, chopped finely (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 Stalks Celery, chopped finely (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Chopped finely
- 3 Leaves of Sage, chopped and divided
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Smoked Turmeric
- 2 tbsp fat free Cream of Chicken, Gluten Free
- 1/2 cup Vegetable stock (homemade or low-sodium if store bought)
- Preheat oven to 425 and add 2 tablespoons of butter to a cast iron skillet. When oven is preheated, add the skillet and allow to heat and butter to melt
- Melt butter in a small saucepan and pour into mixing bowl, allowing to cool in bowl.
- Mix flour(s), salt, baking powder, baking soda and xanthan gum in a bowl and set aside.
- Add sugar to bowl and whisk until sugar is fully combined and no fat is separated from the sugar.
- Add eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly to make sure each egg is combined before adding other ingredients.
- Add flours to the batter and whisk until batter is smooth and flour is incorporated
- Alternate adding cornmeal and buttermilk. Whisk until combined. Batter may be lumpy and that is ok.
- Remove skillet from oven and immediately add cornbread batter to pan, being sure not to splatter butter.
- Return skillet to oven and bake until edges of cornbread is golden, about 20 minutes.
- Allow to cool in pan. For only cornbread, you may top with butter and serve immediately.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and when a drop of water beads on the surface, add the sausage, pressing it into an evenly flat disk. Cook until sausage easily lifts from pan and is browned and crispy. About 4 minutes
- When sausage easily lifts from the pan, flip over and cook on the other side for another 2 minutes, then break up the sausage to finish cooking through. Remove from pan.
- In the same pan, add the onion and celery and cook until just softened. Add in the garlic and sage and cook for another minute.
- Return the sausage to the pan, along with the spices and allow to cook down for another minute.
- Add the vegetable stock and cream of chicken soup and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and cover and allow to cool slightly.
- Remove cornbread from pan and cut into 1 inch cubes. Lay on a sheet-pan lined with a silpat mat or sprayed with baking spray and bake in a 320 degree oven for about 25 mins. Or until desired brownness is achieved.
- In a baking dish or cast iron skillet, add in cornbread cubes to fill it and half of the filling. Stir to combine. Add in the rest of the filling and mix in.
- If needed, add up to another 1/4 cup of vegetable stock to moisten the dish. Top with 1 tablespoon of buttermilk and a pinch of salt and the remaining sage leaf.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for another 15 minutes and remove from oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and serve hot.
*Alternatively, you can use 1 cup of all purpose flour and no oat flour
** If not making Gluten Free, you can use any cornmeal