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Cornbread Dressing Recipe: A Thanksgiving Necessity

If you’re from the Magnolia State – it’s called dressing and it’s an essential turkey side dish at every Thanksgiving spread throughout Mississippi.

It’s made with cornbread crumbles and traditionally accompanies turkey either roasted or deep-fried in peanut oil, a smorgasbord of creamy casseroles, and several, and I do mean several, pies such as pecan, chocolate, and pumpkin. And don’t you dare forget the steaming buttery rolls, sweet potatoes, or corn pudding either.

And while cornbread dressing, served with or without giblet and egg gravy, depending on your preference, might sound like it would take hours and hours to prepare and bake – it’s really quite easy. It can even be prepared a month or so in advance and saved in the freezer specifically for a meal of gratitude and thankful memories.

Here’s how to make traditional southern cornbread dressing:

A great southern-style dressing starts with a solid cornbread foundation that was baked in a skillet for a crisp, golden crust and is best prepared two days in advance. It needs to be crumbled and completely dried out to be perfect.

Lightly grease a casserole dish with butter while preheating the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large sauté pan, melt half a cup of butter, and sauté three cups of diced celery and two cups of diced sweet Vidalia onion. Let the celery and onion get soft and sweet before stirring in half a cup of finely chopped fresh sage, and sauté that for a minute to release the flavorful oils in the leaves.

In a large bowl, combine the cornbread crumbles, and four large, lightly beaten eggs, and stir to combine before mixing in seven cups of chicken stock and one tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper, then add the sautéed celery, onions, and sage mixture.

Cornbread dressing can optionally include oysters, which are added to the mixture before baking. If including oysters, add in a dozen freshly shucked or jarred oysters, preferably Gulf oysters, drained and coarsely chopped. Reserve and use the oyster liquor in place of a cup of chicken broth. Also add a dash of sea salt and the juice of a lemon.

Stir well, then spread the mixture in the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until set and golden brown on top.

Serve this quintessential Thanksgiving side dish and collect tons of compliments. It’s the perfect buffer for all the other side dishes – such as a steamy heap of slow-cooked greens, rich-and-gooey mac and cheese, and sweet-and-tangy cranberries – on the plate.

And it’s called dressing. If anyone at your Thanksgiving table says otherwise, they are not from the south and definitely not from Mississippi.

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