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Anyone who is married, has been married, or is planning on being married, knows that the holidays present some challenges. Are we going to your mother’s house or my mother’s house? Can we just stay home this year?Will it be Tofurky or the real deal on the table? And the big one— will it be bread stuffing or cornbread stuffing?

I grew up on delicious southern cornbread stuffing. My husband only knew soggy, gray-colored, white bread stuffing. Okay, a little editorializing, but true. Was this going to be our first fight? Nope. I’m the primary cook, and cornbread it was (and is)! Now, after 31 years of marriage, he admits that our stuffing dilemma is over – he prefers cornbread. One less challenge…HIS and HERS!

Here’s my recipe. Compare it to your favorite bread stuffing and decide for yourselves. Warning: I like to make things from scratch and garden grow as much as I can, so store bought substitutes may not get the same challenge-winning results. But, I think you’ll still like it better than the alternative.

Delicious Southern Cornbread Stuffing
Serves 4-6, perfect for a 10-14 lb. turkey

Cornbread recipe:

1 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons salt
1 cup medium grind cornmeal
2 eggs
¼ cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup Tillamook Unsalted Butter, softened

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl; stir in cornmeal. In a bowl add eggs, honey, buttermilk, and softened butter and slightly blend with a fork. Pour the egg mixture into the sifted dry ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer about 1 minute – do not overbeat. Pour the batter into a greased 9X9X2-inch pan. Bake in hot, 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 mins.

I start by making the cornbread two days before Thanksgiving. After it cools from the oven, cut it into 2” squares and crumble it up with your hands onto on a large, flat pan (cookie sheet or jelly roll pan). Cover with paper towels and let it sit out on the counter to dry.

The next day ( the day before Thanksgiving) you can make the stuffing (dressing) recipe and put it in the refrigerator. This allows the flavors to really blend together and make the stuffing taste much better.

Southern Cornbread Stuffing recipe:

crumbled, slightly dried, cornbread
3 Tablespoons Tillamook Unsalted Butter, melted
1 medium yellow or red onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup whole hazelnuts
1 small can water chestnuts, sliced
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup chicken broth (I make homemade, but store-bought works fine)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
½ teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place the crumbled cornbread in a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, slightly browning the butter (careful not to burn). Turn the heat to low-medium and add the chopped onions. Sauté for 5 minutes until softened. Add chopped celery and sauté for 3 minutes until slightly soft. Add the sautéed onions and celery to the cornbread. Roast the whole hazelnuts in a dry pan. To do this, you use a small sauté pan without any oils or water, and turn the heat to medium-high. Place the hazelnuts (also called filberts) into the pan and gently roll them around, watching them closely to prevent burning, which happens easily because of their natural oils. After the nuts are roasted, let them cool slightly and then chop them in half or into large broken pieces. Add them to the cornbread mix. Add sliced water chestnuts, beaten egg, chopped herbs and chicken broth to the cornbread and mix ingredients well. Add the salt and pepper to your taste, but I suggest going easy on this because celery and chicken broth are both salty (and so is the delicious gravy that will inevitably top your stuffing). Cover the cornbread and store in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving Day.

You can bake this stuffing inside the turkey, but make sure you follow the instructions so that your turkey gets cooked thoroughly (as it takes longer to roast with stuffing inside the cavity).

I (or should I say, WE) prefer to put the stuffing in a casserole dish with a lid and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Then, take the lid off (or handmade foil top) and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the top of the stuffing is slightly browned and crispy.

This recipe is an easy one to pass on to the next generation, so that the next set of challenges can begin! Good luck, and enjoy.

~ From the kitchen of Cynthia Schaeffer (Matt’s, of the Tillamook Team, Mom)

Photo courtesy of Silvia Song.

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