Now, my quest for a great dressing/stuffing took longer than my search for the perfect turkey recipe, but I think I might finally have it. :D After many trials in the past years, I’ve discovered that I don’t really like strong-tasting herbs such as sage or rosemary or strong spices such as the ever-popular poultry seasoning in my stuffing. Not only that, I’ve found that the simpler the recipe, the better. That’s what makes the Williams-Sonoma Corn Bread Dressing recipe a star in my book – just the simplicity of it but yet a delicious combination of flavors was what won me over. This is now a family favorite and will be the household tradition (along with the Perfect Roast Turkey) for the holidays’ meals. :D
Note the slight changes that I’ve made to the original recipe:
8 cups cubed day-old corn bread (1-inch cubes) – I omit the corn bread for a more classic stuffing
2 cups cubed day-old country-style white bread, crusts removed (1-inch cubes) – I use 10 cups total Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White, with crusts
1½ lb. mild Italian pork sausage, casings removed – For convenience, I substitute with two 9.6-oz packages of Jimmy Dean Turkey Hearty Sausage Crumbles
1 to 2 Tbs. olive oil, if needed
1 yellow onion, finely chopped – Since onion sizes vary a lot, I measured mine and have determined 1½ cups finely chopped onions to be just right
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts, quartered – Again, for an easier prep, I use 1½ cups pre-packaged roasted & peeled whole chestnuts
¼ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as sage, rosemary and thyme – I use 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock – I use Swanson Natural Goodness chicken broth
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Spread bread on a baking sheet (I line the baking sheet with parchment). Toast in the oven until light golden brown and dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. Set aside. (I do this a few days in advance and keep in a Ziploc bag.
*Important note* :D I actually cook the dressing the night before and reheat it on the actual serving day after the turkey comes out of the oven. This serves two purposes – the first is to give the flavors time to meld together and second, it helps reduce the “cooking time” on the actual day.
(So the night before) In a large non-stick pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl. In the same pot, heat and stir the sausage crumbles until hot. Keep the sausage crumbles in the pot and remove pot from heat. Add the onion mixture back into the pot, along with the bread, chestnuts, and thyme. Stir to combine. Then, add the chicken broth and this time, stir everything together gently (you want to soak the bread cubes, but not mush them up entirely). Transfer the dressing to the prepared dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool, and refrigerate it until the next day.
(On the actual day) Take the dressing out of the fridge about half an hour before you are ready to reheat it (just so it’s not super-cold). Once your turkey is out of the oven and resting, remove the foil covering of the dish and bake the dressing in a preheated 375ºF oven until browned and moderately crispy on top, about 40 minutes. Serve and enjoy.