Years ago, Bon Appetit did a segment called “Making Perfect Thanksgiving”, where the test kitchen chefs teamed up to make the “best” gravy, the “best” pie, the “best” turkey, and so on. As the test kitchen team developed their stuffing recipe, chef and cookbook author Rick Martinez mentioned the dressing he grew up eating as a child: one made of cornbread, jalapenos, breakfast sausage, fresh herbs, and butter. That dressing, quite frankly, sounded better than anything they were testing in the kitchen that day.
We messaged Martinez on Instagram requesting the recipe to no avail. So, several years later, here is our interpretation of the Martinez family’s cornbread dressing recipe. We aren’t sure how close it is to what Rick remembered from his childhood, but what we can tell you is that this is one of the best cornbread dressings you will ever eat.
Ingredients for Cornbread Dressing
- Cornbread: baked in a cast iron skillet for the ultimate crispy edges
- Breakfast sausage: spicy or not, the perfect savory companion to cornbread
- Aromatics and herbs: hitting all those classic Thanksgiving flavor notes
- Jalapenos: for the added kick you never knew you wanted your dressing to have
Whether you’re in charge of the whole meal or one or two dishes, cooking for Thanksgiving can be steeped in hours in the kitchen, high expectations, and mounds of dishes. Best to spread all that out as much as possible, yes? Great news: this cornbread dressing is the ultimate make-ahead dish. The cornbread can (and is even better) when made up to two days in advance. The dressing can be prepped, covered, and chilled in the cast iron skillet the day before, so all you’ll need to worry about on the Big Day is baking for 45-60 minutes or until the dressing reaches 165F.
More Holiday-Ready Recipes
- Thanksgiving Charcuterie
- Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Thanksgiving Deviled Eggs
- Mini Pumpkin Pies
- Dahlia Bakery Triple Coconut Cream Pie
Cornbread Dressing with Sausage & Jalapeno
Brooke Eliason PrintServings: 12servingsTotal Time: 1hr30minsDifficulty: Intermediate
- 4Tablespoonsbutter, divided
- 28.5-ounceJiffy corn muffin mix boxes
- ⅔cupwhole milk
- 1lb.breakfast sausage, regular or spicy
- 1smallyellow onion, chopped
- 4jalapenos, de-seeded and chopped*
- 4celery ribs, diced
- 2cloves garlic, minced
- 1tbsp eachfresh sage, rosemary, and thyme, plus more for garnish
- kosher salt
- 3cupschicken stock
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons of the butter in it into the preheated oven. While the butter is melting, make the cornbread batter by combining the muffin mix, eggs, and whole milk with a whisk (batter will be slightly lumpy) and set aside.
- Once the butter is completely melted, swish it around until it coats the bottom surface of the skillet. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until deep golden brown on the bottom, top, and sides, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cooled, remove cornbread from the cast iron skillet, cut into 1-inch cubes, and set aside.
- Lower the oven temperature to 350°F. In a dutch oven, cook the breakfast sausage over medium heat, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once fully cooked, transfer the sausage to a medium bowl. The rendered fat from the sausage should just coat the bottom of the dutch oven, but if the fat is excessive or pooling, absorb some with a paper towel.
- Add the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter to the dutch oven as well as the onion, jalapeno, and celery. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let them brown. Add garlic to the sauteed vegetables and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked sausage back in and cook for an additional minute.
- Place the cubed cornbread in a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the fresh herbs, reserving a few small pieces for garnish, and sprinkle roughly one tablespoon of each on top of the cornbread. Sprinkle the sausage mixture and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt on top of the cornbread, and pour the chicken stock on top. Gently toss everything together, just until the stock, cornbread, and sausage mixture are evenly distributed. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Wipe any crumbs out of the same cast iron skillet you used to bake the cornbread, and pour the prepared dressing into the skillet. Gently spread so that it’s distributed evenly, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the exposed cornbread pieces on the top are golden brown. Garnish with a few pieces of remaining fresh herbs and serve immediately.
- 12-inch cast iron skillet
- large dutch oven
– The cornbread can be made a day or two ahead for this recipe.– To add more spice, leave seeds in from jalapenos and use spicy breakfast sausage.
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