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A buttery cornbread dressing to savor

  • PHOTO COURTESY NEW YORK TIMES

This crisp, rich and buttery dressing is excellent as a side dish for dinner on Thanksgiving and as leftovers the next day. Aromatics and a mix of fresh and dried herbs give it a deep savoriness. The sausage brings a flavor of its own, but you can leave it out for a vegetarian-friendly alternative.

The accompanying cornbread recipe yields a result firm enough to soak up the stock and buttermilk without it turning to a pudding, but you can also use store-bought cornbread or a boxed mix. If you do, just crumble the baked cornbread and spread it out on a sheet pan in an even layer to dry for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours before mixing it with the rest of the dressing ingredients.

Cornbread dressing

Ingredients:

• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan

• 1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola, plus more if needed

• 1 pound loose pork sausage

• 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (2 cups)

• 4 celery ribs, finely chopped 2 cups)

• 4 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 teaspoon dried thyme

• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

• 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

• 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped (from 10 large leaves)

Salt and pepper

• 1 recipe cornbread for dressing, broken into 1-inch pieces, or 10 cups loosely packed cornbread

• 1 1/2 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock

• 1 cup buttermilk, preferably full-fat Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Heat a large skillet over medium and pour in the oil.

Add the sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break the sausage into small pieces, until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the cooked sausage to a plate, keeping any fat in the skillet. Add a few additional tablespoons oil if needed to evenly coat the bottom.

Add the onion and celery to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 6 minutes.

Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds and sage, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Return the cooked sausage to the skillet and stir to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add the cornbread pieces and toss to combine.

Pour in the stock and buttermilk, and stir until well mixed.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

Transfer the cornbread mixture to your prepared dish and spread evenly.

Drizzle the melted butter over the top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until heated through, 30-35 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees, remove the foil and bake until the surface is golden brown in spots, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Let the cornbread dish cool for at least 10 minutes before serving warm.

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, serves 8-10.

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