Cornbread Dressing with Bacon & Sage

I am not usually the biggest fan of Thanksgiving stuffing but I was in love with this version. This classic Southern stuffing had wonderful flavor and a perfect balance of crunchy and custardy texture. Perfect. It will definitely be part of my Thanksgiving menu next year.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Josh Miller. The skillet cornbread is baked in a piping hot cast iron skillet sprinkled with salt- resulting in a fabulously crispy crust. This cornbread would be delicious on its own as well. I made the cornbread a day in advance. The stuffing can be completely assembled one day before serving and baking.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Dressing:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Toss together 5 cups cornbread cubes, torn white bread, 1/2 cup melted butter, and sage in a large bowl.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. In 2 batches, add cornbread mixture to skillet; cook, stirring, until bread is toasted, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer corn-bread mixture to a large bowl, and set aside. Wipe skillet clean.
  4. Add bacon to skillet; cook over medium, stirring often, until crisp, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon; add to cornbread mixture.
  5. Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon drippings in skillet; discard remaining drippings or reserve for another use.
  6. Add onion, apple, celery, parsley, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add onion mixture to cornbread mixture.
  7. Crumble remaining 5 cups cubed cornbread into cornbread mixture.
  8. Whisk together 3 cups broth, eggs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl until blended. Fold into cornbread mixture.
  9. Spoon mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
  10. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup broth and remaining 1/4 cup melted butter. Bake in preheated oven until lightly toasted, about 35 minutes.
Note: Dressing may be assembled up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill until ready to bake.

For the Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread:

  1. Add oil to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; place skillet in oven, and preheat to 450°F, preferably on convection. (Do not remove skillet while oven preheats.)
  2. While oven preheats, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Stir in buttermilk until smooth; stir in eggs, then stir in butter.
  4. Carefully remove skillet from oven; pour hot oil from skillet into cornbread batter, stirring until blended.
  5. Working quickly, sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in bottom of skillet, then immediately pour batter into hot skillet (do not stir), and return to oven.
  6. Bake at 450°F until top is golden brown, about 22 minutes.
  7. Immediately invert cornbread onto a wire rack (to retain the crispy crust); let cool completely before using, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Shrimp & Grits with Mustard Seed Chowchow

Charleston, South Carolina is a very special place for me. As a tribute, I make a lot of Southern food. 🙂 I also make shrimp and grits as part of our traditional Easter celebration.

We were lucky enough to travel back to Charleston recently and we brought home a couple of different types of grits. The fresh from South Carolina grits really made this dish extra special. I also baked the grits for the first time and the results were amazing. I used a blend of stone ground white and yellow grits for this dish, but, I also have special pink “unicorn grits” from Millers All Day which I’ll be sure to share with you in another dish.

This dish is from a Food and Wine “staff-favorite” recipe, contributed by Isaac Toups of Toups South in New Orleans. It was absolutely incredible. (We need to go to his restaurant!)  It may be quite difficult to try a new version next year. I served it with roasted asparagus. Lovely.

  1. Preheat oven to 200°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Toss together shrimp and Cajun seasoning in a medium bowl. Cover; refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Place milk and 1/4 cup butter in a medium ovenproof saucepan. Bring to a vigorous simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.
  4. Gradually add grits, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and grits are evenly suspended in milk, about 6 minutes.
  5. Cover saucepan; transfer to preheated oven. Bake until grits are tender, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven; stir in 2 teaspoons salt and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Cover to keep warm until ready to use. (I put the pot in a warming oven.)
  6. While the grits are in the oven, stir together vinegar, 3/4 cup water, sugar, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt in a saucepan; bring to a boil over high.
  7. Stir in mustard seeds. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until seeds are tender, about 35 minutes.
  8. Add tomato and bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and mixture has thickened, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from heat.
  9. Remove shrimp from refrigerator. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high until smoking.
  10. Add shrimp to skillet in a single layer; cook until opaque and lightly charred, about 1 minute and 30 seconds per side.
  11. To serve, divide grits among 4 bowls. Top evenly with shrimp and chowchow; sprinkle with sliced scallion.

Note: The chowchow can be made up to a week in advance.

Shortcut Chicken Stew with Fluffy Dumplings

This incredible comfort food dish uses rotisserie chicken meat as a shortcut. I made it even more of a shortcut by using my pre-made homemade stock, but I included the chicken stock instructions in the recipe below.

This recipe was loosely adapted from cookbook author Sheri Castle, via The Washington Post. The broth was rich and flavorful and the dumplings were the icing on the cake. Fluffy and fabulous. This is truly the perfect dish to serve on a cold winter night.

Yield: 6-8 servings

For the Stock & Stew:

  • 1 large rotisserie chicken (Costco size) or 2 small rotisserie chickens
  • 4 cups cold water (to make the stock) or 4 cups or homemade poultry stock (for a shortcut)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken stock (store-bought or homemade) (4 cups if using pre-made homemade stock)
  • 3 large thyme sprigs (to make stock)
  • 2-3 tsp Kosher salt, plus more as needed, divided
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium ribs celery, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and cut into thin rounds (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

For the Dumplings:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 T unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

For the Stock & Stew:

  1. Pull the meat from the chicken(s) and tear it into largish bite-size pieces; cover and refrigerate until needed.
  2. I substituted/used 4 cups of homemade turkey stock instead of making stock with the chicken carcass. *If making the chicken stock base, place the carcass and skin in a large saucepan or small pot. Add the cold water, 8 cups broth, thyme sprigs and 1 teaspoon of the salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about an hour, until the carcass falls apart and the liquid reduces to about 8 cups and tastes like rich chicken soup. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan; discard solids.*
  3. If using pre-made stock, combine the 4 cups homemade stock with 4 cups of store-bought chicken stock. Stir the vinegar into the stock, season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm on the lowest heat setting.
  4. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, thyme leaves and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat. Cook for 8 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often.
  5. Add the 8 cups stock and cook for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Carefully watch the heat to ensure that the stock doesn’t boil over.
  6. Season with 1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste) and the pepper.
  7. Stir in the reserved shredded rotisserie chicken meat; reduce the heat to low.

For the Dumplings & to Finish the Dish:

  1. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Work in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Add the half-and-half and stir only until combined to form a soft, sticky dough.
  4. Bring the chicken stew to a boil over medium-high heat. Use a 1-ounce scoop (I used a large cookie scoop) or two soup spoons to drop golf-ball-size dumplings evenly over the surface of the stew. The hot liquid seals the dumplings so that they rise instead of spread.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium; cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the dumplings are firm, fluffy and somewhat dry on top. Don’t be tempted to lift the lid- if the heat escapes, the dumplings may deflate.
  6. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.

Fresh Corn Grits with Shrimp & Roasted Pecan Butter

Another Easter weekend food tradition in our family is to eat shrimp and grits as a celebration of one of our favorite places- Charleston, South Carolina. The spring sunshine reminds me of how lovely it is there. It is a particularly special place for us because it’s where my husband and I met. ❤ Charleston is also an incredible food city.

I really like the story behind this amazing version. Apparently, it was created on Top Chef season 5 by Jeff McInnis, owner of Miami’s Yardbird restaurant. He was challenged to create a shrimp and grits dish without using grits. He made fresh corn “grits” using fresh corn, but, the best part was that he incorporated pecan butter in the grits because of a memory of eating fresh nut butter from his grandmother’s pecan tree. The fresh nut butter put this dish over the top. Delicious. I wish that I had the imagination to dream up a dish like this one.

This was my husband’s favorite shrimp and grits (thus far), and I’ve made quite a few versions. I pointed out that it may be because this dish didn’t actually have grits. 🙂 This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Jeff McInnis. I increased the amount of fresh corn in the grits and slightly increased the amount of prosciutto. Next time, I may reduce the amount of lager. I may increase the amount of grits as well- we wanted more!

Yield: Serves 4

For the Roasted Pecan Butter:

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • coarse salt, to taste

For the Grits:

  • 6 large ears of corn, shucked and coarsely grated on a box grater (2 cups pulp and juice)
  • 1/4 cup milk, plus more for stirring/serving, as desired
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • roasted pecan butter (about 1/4 cup), directions below

For the Shrimp Sauté:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 ounces thinly sliced country ham or prosciutto, cut into strips
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup lager, to taste (I used 1 cup but may reduce it next time)
  • lemon wedges, for serving, optional

Make the Roasted Pecan Butter:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Roast the pecans about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.
  3. Process toasted pecans in a mini food processor with canola oil until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  4. Season with salt to taste.

Make the Grits:

  1. In a saucepan, simmer the grated corn and juices with the 1/4 cup of milk over moderate heat, stirring, until thick, 4 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the pecan butter; keep warm.

Make the Shrimp Sauté:

  1. In a large, deep skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter.
  2. Add the prosciutto and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onion, snap peas and corn, season with salt and pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they just begin to curl, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the lager and bring to a boil.
  6. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through and the liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.
  7. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

To Serve:

  1. Whisk a little milk into the grits so it’s the consistency of polenta; heat until warm.
  2. Spoon the grits into shallow bowls, top with the shrimp sauté and serve at once.
  3. Serve with lemon wedges, as desired.

One Year Ago: Seared Scallops & Cauliflower Grits

Two Years Ago: Classic Shrimp & Grits

Three Years Ago: Shrimp with Fresh Corn Grits

Four Years Ago: Shrimp & Grits with Tomatoes

Five Years Ago: Hominy Grill’s Shrimp & Grits

Seared Scallops & Cauliflower Grits

With the sunshine and warmer weather, an Easter weekend tradition in our house is to celebrate our love (and the food!) of the beautiful South Carolina Low Country. I usually serve a version of the classic Low Country dish, Shrimp and Grits, but, this year tried this scallop and cauliflower grits adaptation. We absolutely loved it!

This recipe was adapted from Joel Gamoran, Sur La Table National Chef, via Sur la Table.com. I puréed the vegetables instead of juicing them for the sauce, used riced cauliflower, and doubled the garlic. Amazing.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

For the Cauliflower Grits:

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds riced cauliflower
  • 1 to 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

For the Scallops:

  • 2 medium whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
  • 16 sea scallops, patted dry
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare the Cauliflower Grits: In the microwave, steam the riced cauliflower for 4 minutes, or until very tender.
  2. Combine the steamed cauliflower with Parmesan, garlic, and enough cream cheese to achieve desired consistency.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  4. Prepare the Scallops: Combine the tomatoes, pepper and carrot in a Vitamix, food processor, or blender. Puree.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Season scallops with salt and pepper and add to pan in one layer. Sear the scallops for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden. Remove scallops to a platter.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining oil to skillet.
  8. Add shallot and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and smoked paprika and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  10. Slowly whisk in puréed vegetables and bring to a boil.
  11. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  12. To serve: Serve scallops on top of cauliflower grits with sauce spooned on top. Garnish with scallions and extra black pepper, as desired.

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Southern Cornbread Dressing

Okay… back to my belated Thanksgiving feast posts…

I struggle selecting a “stuffing” for our Thanksgiving Menu. This version was simple and perfect. I loved that it was a traditional Southern recipe and that it incorporated an unsweetened cast iron skillet cornbread.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Kim Severson. I used medium grind cornmeal. The cornbread is made the night before so that it can harden slightly. I let the cubed white bread sit out overnight as well. We ate it without incorporating meat, but this base recipe could easily be modified to include sausage or even nuts and/or apples. The author suggested eating leftovers mixed with shredded leftover turkey as well.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Cornbread:

  • 4 tablespoons/56 grams butter or bacon drippings
  • 2 cups/340 grams yellow cornmeal, medium grind (use the freshest, best quality you can find)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups/473 milliliters buttermilk, preferably full fat (I used low-fat)

For the Dressing:

  • 3 cups soft white bread, crusts removed and torn or cut into 1-inch pieces (do not pack)
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups chopped sweet onions
  • 1 ½ cups chopped celery (4 or 5 stalks)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 to 5 cups rich chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

Optional Additions:

  • 3/4 pound pork sausage (such as spicy Italian sausage, fresh andouille or spicy Southern-style sausage)
  • 2 1/2 cups of toasted pecans, chopped
  • chopped apples
  1. Make the cornbread: Heat oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Put butter in an 11-inch skillet. Cast-iron is best here, but any ovenproof skillet will do. Heat butter in oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until butter has melted and is just starting to brown.
  3. While butter melts, whisk together cornmeal, salt and baking powder.
  4. In another small bowl, lightly beat eggs, then add buttermilk and stir until mixture is combined.
  5. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir well.
  6. Remove hot pan from oven, pour butter into batter and stir until batter looks uniform.
  7. Pour batter back into the pan and bake for 20 minutes or until the top has begun to just brown.
  8. Remove cornbread and let it cool on a rack.
  9. Tear or cut it into large pieces and place in a large bowl. Let it sit out overnight to dry out slightly.
  10. Prepare the dressing: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cornbread and white bread in a large bowl, tossing to mix, and breaking cornbread into smaller pieces.
  11. Melt butter in a large skillet, and add onions, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes.
  12. Add vegetables to bread mixture and combine.
  13. Lightly beat eggs and add to bowl.
  14. Sprinkle in herbs, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper and toss together.
  15. Add 4 cups broth and stir well.
  16. Using your hands, work the mixture to get a very lumpy, thick, batter-like consistency.
  17. Add another cup of stock if needed. The mixture should be very wet and pourable but without standing liquid.
  18. Butter a 2-quart ovenproof dish. (such as an 8-by-11-inch baking dish. A deeper vessel could take longer to bake; a more shallow dish less time.)
  19. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake until dressing puffs slightly and has browned well around the edges, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  20. If you have drippings from a roasted turkey, spoon some over the top about 30 minutes into the baking time.

Notes:

  • To Add Sausage: Brown 3/4 pound pork sausage in a pan, crumbling it into small pieces as it cooks. Add to the bread mixture along with the vegetables.
  • To Include Nuts: Add 2 1/2 cups of toasted pecans, chopped, to the vegetable and bread mixture.

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Southern Pimento Cheese Dip

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you know that Charleston, South Carolina is a very special place for me. (I write about it in all of my Shrimp & Grits posts!) I love everything about it. The culture. The architecture. The FOOD. I met my husband there. ❤ I went to graduate school there and met amazing people and established wonderful friendships there as well. It is just beyond fabulous. 🙂

I recently attended a reunion weekend in Charleston with my best girlfriends. It was better than great. I smiled for three days! 🙂 I also ate incredible food… Which brings me to this post.

I have a memory of pimento cheese from way back when in my South Carolina days. I had never heard of it- growing up in Maryland- and didn’t like it at all. Well, now I’ve seen the light! Pimento cheese can be jarred pimentos mixed with Miracle Whip and shredded cheddar cheese- maybe with a little cream cheese. It could also be this. (The Anson Mills website makes a point of this.) On my recent visit, we ate pimento cheese dip (from Ted’s Butcher Block) with rosemary crackers for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour. 😉 It was that good. When we went to buy a second container, I asked for the recipe. Apparently, it’s a secret… but they did tell me that it didn’t have pimentos- it had roasted red peppers instead. No wonder I loved it!

When I came home, I searched for a similar recipe. I was so pleased when I found it on AnsonMills.com. I made it to share with friends on the Fourth of July. The Long Island crowd loved it! 🙂 I used New York extra-extra sharp raw milk yellow cheddar cheese (the cheese is very important), organic mayonnaise, and grilled the peppers to roast and char them. We ate the finished dip chilled with rosemary crackers, pita chips, stone ground wheat crackers, and Trader Joe’s social snackers. Delicious!

  • 3 firm red bell peppers (about 6 ounces each), roasted and charred on a gas grill, steamed, peeled and seeded, and cut into ⅛-inch dice (instructions below)
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce, such as Chipotle Cholula, Sriracha, or Tabasco
  • 12 oz cheddar cheese, preferably 12 oz extra-extra sharp raw milk yellow cheddar (or 6 oz each of sharp yellow cheddar and aged raw-milk white cheddar, or 12 oz of sharp yellow cheddar)
  • 4 oz (½ cup) organic mayonnaise, plus additional as needed
  • assorted crackers or celery sticks, for serving
  1. Using a gas grill, roast the red peppers until their skins are uniformly charred.
  2. Place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the skins have loosened from the steam and they are cool enough to handle.
  3. Remove the charred skin, seeds, and ribs from the peppers. (Do not rinse!) Dice into 1/8-inch pieces. Reserve any residual juice/liquid.
  4. Add the diced roasted bell peppers and any residual juice to a small non-reactive bowl (you should have 1 very generous cup).
  5. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife, remove and discard the skins, and add the garlic to the bowl with the peppers.
  6. Stir in the vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and up to ½ teaspoon hot sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile, grate the cheese on the large holes of a box grater (you should have about 4 cups lightly packed). Turn the cheese into a large bowl and set aside.
  8. Remove and discard the garlic cloves from the peppers, which are now pimentos, and, using a rubber spatula, stir the pimentos into the grated cheese until well combined.
  9. Add the mayonnaise and fold lightly with the spatula. If the mixture appears too dry, fold in additional mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste for seasoning.
  10. Transfer the pimento cheese to a serving container with a lid, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  11. Serve chilled with assorted crackers or packed into celery ribs.

Note: Covered tightly, pimento cheese keeps refrigerated for up to 1 week.

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