In the fall and winter, tasty meals surround us all season long. One of my favorites is a dish that fits the cold weather occasion perfectly. When the leaves turn and start to fall, and that morning chill fills the air, I always get excited to cook this meal. Now, if you're not willing or able to tackling a turkey this year, chicken and cornbread dressing makes a fantastic Thanksgiving alternative. So, get out your pots and pans! Thanksgiving is right around the corner!!
I like starting this dish the night before, and this is a great method if you're trying to keep things as stress-free as possible. You can do all of this the day of, but you'll probably want to get an early start if you choose to go that route. I'm not much of a gambler, though, so I like to give myself plenty of time.
You should be able to feed 5-6 people with this recipe. If your lucky, there will be leftovers. That's never happened at my house, but I have heard rumors (from unreliable sources) that it's happened a time or two in other homes.
for the chicken and broth:
1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs)
4 TBS kosher or himalayan salt (for soaking the chicken)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 celery bunch (chopped)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 TBS kosher or himalayan salt
1 TBS of powdered garlic
1 TBS of black pepper
2 TBS of ground sage
1 large bay leaf
for the cornbread dressing:
2-1/2 cups of self-rising cornmeal
2-1/2 cups of cultured buttermilk
3 TBS shortening
1-1/2 TBS ground sage
1 tsp pepper
3-4 pieces whole wheat bread (optional)
for optional garnish:
The day before:
1. First, put on some good banjo music to get into the appropriate mood. Next, take a good size chicken--approx. 4-5 pounds--and wash the bird well. Let it soak for 30min in a large pot of salt water solution (I use about 4 TBS of kosher salt). This helps draw out any remaining blood.
2. While the chicken is soaking, cut up 1 large onion, 1 celery bunch, and 1 parsley bunch (in total, you will need 1/4 cup of chopped parsley). Set aside.
3. Rinse and drain the chicken. Place it in a large stock pot. Fill with enough water to just barely cover the chicken. Add your cut up ingredients with 4 TBS of salt (I use pink Himalayan salt), 1 TBS of powdered garlic, 1 TBS of black pepper, 2 TBS of ground sage, and 1 large bay leaf.
Bring the uncovered pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 60min at a slow to medium boil. After your cooking time is over, remove from the burner and set it aside. Let it cool down real good. Then, put it in the fridge overnight.
Cooking Tip: To save time, while your chicken is cooking, you can go ahead and start your next step in this here recipe--the cornbread. If you don't like multitasking, then sit down and relax a piece while your chicken is cooking on the stove. Kick your feet up, sip on a little sweet tea, and don't start the cornbread until after the chicken has finished cooking and is cooling down.
Now, some folks have their own way of cooking cornbread. Sometimes it's a hit and miss experiment. But I assure you, if you follow this way of cooking cornbread, you won't miss. I like using Martha White self-rising cornmeal. Not plain cornmeal mix!! That's important.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2-1/2 cups of the cornmeal, 2 eggs, and 2-1/2 cups of cultured buttermilk. You can use the low fat stuff, but I don't. Mix it all together and set it aside.
5. Take a 12 inch "well seasoned" iron skillet and grease it up with shortening. (If you don't have an iron skillet, you can use a 9x13 casserole dish or baking pan.) Wipe it out good, but make sure you've covered the inside of the pan all over, even on the sides. Place the pan in the oven. Turn your oven on to preheat to 400 degrees. Once your oven has reached the correct temperature, remove the pan and add 3 TBS of shortening to your pan (Do not use lard! You can use crisco, or you can use unflavored coconut oil if you want to make this a little healthier). Put the pan back in the oven for approx. 10min.
6. By this time your cornbread mixture should be close to room temperature. It should rise up some to an almost "fluffy" consistency. Remove the hot pan from the oven a pour the mix immediately into the pan. You will know it's right if the bread sizzles when you pour it into the pan. Then place it back into the oven. Cook for 30-40min or until golden brown on top.
7. Remove from the oven when done. Flip the pan upside down, removing the cornbread onto a large cooling rack.
8. Let it cool. I like to let it cool down enough to break it up some by hand. This helps the steam and moisture escape the bread. It's important to have your cornbread kind of dried out. This will allow the broth to absorb into your cornbread and rise up fluffy when baked. Cover with cheese cloth or a towel overnight.
Now comes cooking day!! Oh boy!!!
It's the day of the show y'all! (prep time: 35 min, cooking time: 1 hr 30 min)
10. Take the chicken pot out of the fridge. Unfortunately, this is a tedious task. Remove the chicken and de-bone and skin the bird. Discard the bay leaf. Strain your remaining veggies from the broth. Set aside both the broth and the cooked veggies for your dressing. Place the chicken pieces in an oven-safe dish and cover with aluminum foil for reheating in the oven later.
11. In a large mixing bowl, rip apart the cornbread and crumble it up. You can also crumble up about 3-4 pieces of whole wheat bread to add to the mixture. Take some ground sage, 1-1/2 TBS, and mix through the corn bread. Add 3 eggs and mix throughly with the cornbread and sage. Also add a dash of pepper (approx.1 tsp) and mix.
12. Mix your cooked onions and celery into your cornbread. Begin to add your broth. Be sure to do this slowly and carefully. If you add too much, it will be hard after baking. Not enough, and it will be too dry. You want to add enough broth to make it it wet but not runny. 2-3 cups should do it. When you pour it into your baking pan, it should "mound" up some. This is one way of knowing that you've gotten it right. Spread mixture around evenly in pan.
13. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. I cook this recipe in those deep aluminum pans you can buy at your grocer, but you can also just reuse the pan you used to cook the cornbread in the day before. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 min. Remove foil and stir what you have cooked. Be careful!! It's hot. Kind of fluff it all up. Put back in the oven without the foil on top. Cook until golden brown on top, approx. 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool a little before serving. Garnish with fresh sage.
14. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Once your oven has reached the appropriate temperature, place your covered chicken in the oven to reheat for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve. Garnish with fresh parsley.
As your chicken is reheating and the dressing is cooling off a little, it's time to make your gravy.
You can use what's left of your chicken broth for this. If needed, you can also add some canned broth to your homemade broth.
Mmm mm gravy!
In a 2 quart pan add your leftover homemade broth and a can or 2 of prepared broth. Heat, but not to a boil. Take a small cup or bowl and add 3-4 TBS of flour. Add broth to your flour mix until you reach the consistency of thin pudding. Make sure your mixture isn't lumpy. When your pan of broth gets hot enough, almost to a boil, slowly pour your thin flour mix into your hot broth, stirring with a wisk very briskly until it starts to get thicker. You may not have to add all the flour mix. Once you get to your preference of thickness of your gravy, remove from heat, and pour into your gravy dish.
To serve this holiday meal up with all the fixings, it goes best with mashed potatoes or yams, broccoli, fried squash and of course, cranberry sauce or cranberry relish. (Continue reading below for a quick and delicious cranberry relish recipe.) Hibiscus iced tea tops it all off. Deserts can be a difficult choice. Coconut cake, pumpkin pie, apple pie, or all the above!
Quick and Easy Cranberry Relish
2 cups fresh whole cranberries
1 whole orange (peel 'n' all)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (or more if you like a much sweeter relish)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Wash your orange. Trim off the ends and quarter. Plop all your ingredients into a food processor and chop. Ta da! Mix in your chopped nuts, if you want em'. Pour relish into a dish and garnish with a few whole cranberries and a couple of orange slices. You're done!