By Jessica Roy How is it possible that it’s almost Thanksgiving again? Time certainly has sneaked up on me, but I’m so excited I can barely stand it. With all the delicious possibilities, I’m carefully planning my strategy complete with charts, graphs, and a plating diagram to make sure I get a taste of everything on the table.
All right, I’m not quite that nuts, but pretty close. As you may know, while I absolutely appreciate a few delicious bites of turkey, I’m really all about the sides, and thus I introduce you to this year’s masterpiece: Cornbread and Cranberry Stuffing — of course with Bacon and Sage.
The key to unlocking the secret of this stuffing starts with the cornbread itself. While I generally allow for a substitute here or there, this one is best made totally from scratch. My cornbread recipe is different than most, as I use masa harina — actual corn flour. It creates really ‘corn-y’ flavor and makes the bread slightly denser than recipes using mostly AP flour and cornmeal. This density is key for a fantastic stuffing recipe.
So, this week, dear readers, you get two recipes in one! If you decide that the cornbread alone sounds delicious (it is), increase the maple syrup in the recipe to 3 Tbs., and also brush a little butter over the top before baking.
Cornbread and Cranberry Stuffing (with Bacon and Sage)
1 pan cornbread (recipe below)
8 oz. thick sliced bacon, cut into 1/4 in. strips
2 shallots, diced
1 cup celery, cut into 1/4 in. pieces (about 2 stalks)
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 Tbs. fresh sage, finely chopped
1 Tbs. maple syrup
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tbs. butter, melted
Salt and pepper, as needed
Suggested tools: large high sided skillet, or dutch oven and a wooden spoon.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pulse the cranberries gently in a food processor until they are finely chopped, or chop them by hand, and set aside. Slice the corn bread into approximately 1 inch pieces.
Place a dutch oven or large high sided skillet on the stove over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the sliced bacon, and cook until bacon is browned just starting to crisp, and the fat has melted into the pan. Remove the bacon pieces from the skillet, and set aside.
Add the diced shallot and celery into the hot bacon fat, and cook until fragrant and tender- about 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped cranberries and sage to the pan, give a good stir, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with white wine, scraping any brown bits off the bottom, and stir in the maple syrup. When the liquid has evaporated, remove the pan from heat. Add the bacon back into the pan along with the cornbread pieces. Pour 1 1/2 cups chicken stock and 2 Tbs. melted butter over top, and gently toss all the ingredients together.
Prep a casserole dish with pan spray or grease with extra butter. Transfer the cornbread mixture to the dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove the foil, and place back into the oven to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until top is browned and crisp.
The Real Deal Skillet Corn Bread
1 1/2 cups masa harina (corn flour)
1/2 cup AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. butter (2 Tbs. melted, 2 Tbs. solid)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs. maple syrup (increase to 4 Tbs. if enjoying the cornbread alone)
Suggested tools: A well seasoned cast iron skillet. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, a baking dish can be substituted. Grease the baking dish liberally with butter, but do not place it in the oven prior to baking, as suggested for the skillet.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put 2 Tbs. butter in a cast iron skillet, and place it into the oven to get hot while the oven warms up.
Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs. melted butter, milk, cream, eggs and maple syrup. Pour the wet ingredient mixture into the bowl containing the dry ingredients, and stir until everything is incorporated, but not totally smooth.
Remove the skillet from the oven, and swirl the melted butter all around the bottom and sides of the skillet. Pour and press the cornbread batter into the buttered pan, and place it back into the oven to bake for 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.