Every year for the last 20 years I made my Thanksgiving dressing the same way. It was a recipe for Chestnut Dressing I got from my Mother and if I dared vary it in any way, I received disappointing looks and disparaging remarks from my Mom. Sadly my Mom is no longer with us but I finally felt liberated enough to try something new this year with my holiday dressing. I decided to try a sausage cornbread dressing. I used turkey andouille sausage and It includes toasted pecans and dried cherries. All flavors I love so how bad could it be all together. I made a batch of browned butter cornbread to use as the base the week before Thanksgiving so the cornbread had a chance to become stale. The results were great. A very sophisticated dressing with a nice crumb and good seasoning from the sausage. Not sure I am making the same dressing next year but it was fun to change it up & experiment with a new taste.
Sausage Cornbread Dressing
(recipe adapted from bon appetit Magazine)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided, plus more
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup dried tart cherries
10 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread, preferably homemade, dried out overnight
⅓ cup coarsely chopped pecans
¼ cup olive oil
1 pound turkey sausage, casings removed
2 medium onions, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 large eggs
3 cups turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth, divided
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 400°
Butter a shallow 3-qt. baking dish and a sheet of foil
Bring vinegar and 2 Tbsp. water to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat and add cherries. Let sit until cherries are plump, 15–20 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread out cornbread on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 10–15 minutes. Let cool. Place in a very large bowl.
Drain cherries, reserving soaking liquid, and add cherries to bowl with cornbread (do not mix).
Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Toast pecans on a clean rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool; add to bowl.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook turkey sausage, stirring occasionally and breaking into small pieces with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
Add onions and celery to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden brown and soft, 10–12 minutes. Add garlic and sage; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
Reduce heat to medium and cook reserved cherry soaking liquid in skillet, scraping up any browned bits, until almost all evaporated, about 1 minute. Add ½ cup butter; cook, stirring, until melted. Drizzle over bread mixture.
Whisk eggs and 2 cups stock in a medium bowl; pour over cornbread mixture. Add parsley, season with salt and pepper, and gently toss, adding more stock ¼-cupful at a time as needed (you may not use it all), until combined and cornbread is hydrated. Mix carefully to avoid breaking cornbread into crumbs.
Transfer to prepared dish and dot with remaining ¼ cup butter.
Cover with buttered foil; bake until a paring knife inserted into the center comes out hot, 30–35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450°. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown and crisp, 20–25 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.