Sausage, Cranberry, and Cornbread Stuffing

I’ve often felt like the odd man out on Thanksgiving. Whether we’re heading to our annual Friendsgiving celebration or dinner at my family’s house, sometimes it seems like all anyone can talk about is the stuffing. They can’t wait to eat the stuffing, they’re so excited about the stuffing, the stuffing is the best dish ever on Thanksgiving etc, etc…

Oh, and while we’re on the topic, do you call it stuffing or dressing? I’ve always called it stuffing, even though we never actually put it in the turkey. Dressing to me is something you put on a salad :)

Sausage, Cranberry, and Cornbread Stuffing

Anyway, I’ve never really understood all the hype about stuffing. For the longest time I didn’t like it at all, and while I tolerate all kinds now, I only really enjoy it when made with cornbread. Since the versions served at Friendsgiving and my family’s house are almost never cornbread-based, I usually make a small pan for just Shane and I to enjoy at our mini Thanksgiving. I try a slightly different recipe every year, and this one may have been the best yet.

Sausage, Cranberry, and Cornbread Stuffing

There’s nothing too earth-shattering about this cornbread stuffing – in fact, it includes a lot of the usual suspects like sausage, onion, celery, sage, etc. Still it stood out as my clear favorite when compared to recipes I’ve made in the past. Maybe it was the addition of dried cranberries and pecans, neither of which I have used before. Both of them add great texture to the dish, and the cranberries lend nice color too (though let’s be honest, stuffing is never going to win any beauty contests). This stuffing wasn’t as crumbly as some I’ve made in the past. The top gets golden brown and crispy in the oven, while the inside stays moist so you get contrasting textures in every bite. I shared a little of this dish with my stepfather, who I like to think is something of a stuffing expert, and he raved about it too. Maybe I can convince him to put it on the menu next year :)

Sausage, Cranberry, and Cornbread Stuffing
adapted from Anne Burrell (via Food Network)

{Note: you can definitely use store-bought cornbread to make your life easier, but if you want to go homemade, I like this recipe for stuffing. If you’re only feeding a few people, the recipe can be halved and baked in an 8×8-inch dish.}

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
10 sage leaves, finely chopped
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed from stems and finely chopped
10 cups stale cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cups dried cranberries
3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish (or other similarly sized dish) with nonstick cooking spray.

Set a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the onions, celery, and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the sausage and brown, stirring and breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Mix in the garlic and cook for one minute, just until fragrant, then stir in the pecans, sage, and rosemary, and cook for just one more minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a large bowl, combine the cornbread, cranberries, and the sausage mixture. Season to taste with salt pepper. Then gradually add the chicken stock, mixing to incorporate until the bread is moistened (but not soggy). Transfer to the prepared dish.

Bake the stuffing (uncovered) until it is golden brown and crispy on top and hot all the way through, about 35-40 minutes.