I love good dressing. My family never stuffed the turkey or chicken when roasting, the dressing was always either cooked in a separate pan or placed under the mostly cooked turkey. I always preferred it in a separate pan, as I liked the crusty top, bottom and edges. Mama's dressing was always done the same way and was very simple. Stale cornbread, stale white bread, onions, eggs, celery, sage, black pepper, chicken/turkey broth and lots of fat, either butter or chicken/turkey fat. It was always delicious. I never asked my mom how she made it and it has taken me several years to figure out her secret. The most important part is the correct balance of cornbread and white bread, which I learned (by trial and error) is 4 parts stale cornbread to 1 part stale white bread. Here is what I came up with, this will make enough for a 9x13 inch pan of dressing. Oh and the difference between stuffing and dressing? It is the same stuff! Stuffing is stuffed inside the turkey (well, duh!) and dressing is when it is baked separately.
I bake a pan of cornbread the night before and after the oven has cooled off, just leave the pan in the oven overnight or until whenever the next day you are making the dressing. An 8x8 inch pan of cornbread gives you just enough for this recipe. As for the stale white bread, I often buy a bag of rolls from the discount shelf at the store. They are usually just right for this recipe.
8 cups stale cornbread, crumbled
2 cups stale white bread, crumbled
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
about 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped (I like to use the inner core with the leafy greens)
1 tbsp. crumbled dried sage (finely chopped fresh sage if you happen to have some) or to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper or to taste
1/4 cup butter or chicken/turkey fat or mixture of the two
chicken or turkey broth, 3-6 cups, as you like
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
In a large dutch oven heat the butter or fat and then saute the onion and celery until lightly browned, do not allow to scorch. While that is cooking, take a very large bowl and add the cornbread, white bread, sage and black pepper. When the vegetables are done, add about a cup of the chicken broth to deglaze the pan, then pour it all into the breads and seasoning. Add another 2 cups chicken broth and the eggs, then stir to mix well. Add more broth until you get it to the correct consistency, this will depend on if you like a dryer or moister dressing. I like mine very moist, so I add enough broth until it is very wet and slightly soupy. Spoon or pour into your greased baking dish and smooth out the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until it is well browned and crusty. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
One thing I like to do for a main dish when I don't want to go to the trouble of roasting a chicken or cook a turkey, is to make chicken and dressing in one dish. I will buy a deli roast chicken from the store, take the meat off the bone and reserve. I put the bones and skin in a dutch oven and simmer with packaged chicken broth (about 2 quarts), an onion (washed and halved, but skin left on), a couple carrots and some celery. After simmering for 45-60 minutes, strain and discard the solids. I make up my dressing mixture, using the broth (saving back 2 cups for gravy) from the bones. I put half of the dressing mixture in my baking dish, then top with the chicken meat, spreading it out evenly, then top with the rest of the dressing mixture. Bake as before. I then make some gravy with the reserved broth (3 tbsp. oil or butter heated, then adding 2 heaping tbsp. flour, make a roux, brown lightly, then whisk in the 2 cups chicken broth, cook until thick.)