It's hard to improve upon a classic dish—but Florida food writer Jackie Garvin did just that.
I'm stepping out here and ready to make a bold statement. I think I might have figured out how to make my Granny's Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing even better. In addition to using cornbread, she always included leftover biscuits, bread, or Saltine crackers. Well, sir, I made a batch of Sage and Onion Biscuits to throw in along with my Southern Buttermilk Cornbread (which Granny called eggbread). I also used fresh sage—lots of it—instead of the poultry seasoning she always used. The results are spectacular.
An ongoing rivalry exists between stuffing lovers and dressing lovers. Stuffing is generally stuffed in the cavity of the Thanksgiving turkey before cooking. Dressing is baked in a pan and never sees the inside of the bird and is served as a side dish. Over the years, the name stuffing has taken on a different meaning and now is used interchangeably with dressing. We need to set the record straight: stuffing is stuffed and dressing is...well, it isn't anything. It's baked all by itself. Southerners generally prefer dressing, typically cornbread dressing.
WATCH: How to Make Southern-Style Cornbread Dressing
Dressing was created as a way to use up leftover cornbread, biscuits, and bread. You can store leftover pieces of bread and biscuits in the freezer to use in dressing. Some Southern cooks like to add crushed Saltine crackers to dressing. If you're making cornbread dressing, the addition of an item made from wheat flour does give the dressing a nice texture and helps it bind together.
A tip for getting as much flavor in your dressing as possible is to use stale cornbread and bread. I made the cornbread and biscuits a day or two ahead. Stale bread will soak up more of the stock and add loads of flavor to the dressing. Of course, you need to have a good quality stock. Homemade chicken or turkey stock is easy to make and keeps well in the freezer. If you'd rather purchase from the grocery store, chose stock over broth. Stock is made with the bones, skin, and fat and has more flavor than broth which is made solely from the meat. The trend now for bone broth is there just to confuse us all. Bone broth is stock.
I've been cooking for many years and have gone through many cooking phases including everything from hating to cook to preparing large gourmet spreads. During my gourmet cooking phase, I experimented with dressing up the dressing. I was snobbish and thought cornbread dressing was just too plain and simple. As it turns out, being plain and simple is what makes it taste so good. I'm over being snobbish about my food. I've come full circle back to the down home honest cooking that has fed my family for generations. I'm thankful to be back home and I won't be straying again.
Jackie Garvin is an Alabama born and raised, award-winning author and cook. She is the author of the popular Southern food blog, "Syrup and Biscuits", and two Southern-inspired cookbooks: Biscuits and Sweet Potato Love. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and Basset Hound, both of whom are well fed.