This is a slightly fruity version of cornbread dressing, but with savory flavors dancing around in the back. Cornbread and apple compliment each other, then throw in the bacon and cheese that temper the sweetness and add a lovely savory aspect. I like this version with turkey, but it’s spectacularly delicious with roast pork. I have a to disclosure to make. In addition to using dried cranberries, I had these lovely seedless Concord grapes and thought they might be a nice addition, too. Not only that, they’re pretty and you know, it’s all about how it looks…and it looks marvelous! You want a nice, crisp and not too sweet apple, so a Granny Smith or a Cortland are both good options. I break the cornbread up with my hands…I leave the pieces in pretty large pieces before I toast them. You can always break them into smaller pieces, but in this case, you can’t glue them back together!
I fry the bacon, then remove all but about 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Then, in the same skillet, I sauté the vegetables in the bacon fat, I just dump everything into the bowl with the cornbread. This time the cornbread took almost 2 cups of broth, but it depends on how dry the cornbread is. Use a light hand when you’re mixing the stuffing, so as to not break up the cornbread chunks too much.I didn’t melt the butter, but just smeared some softened butter over the mixture. It makes a nice crispy crust on the finished stuffing. I make this stuffing ahead, cover the dish with foil and refrigerate it overnight. Return the dish to room temperature before baking. If I’m roasting a pork tenderloin, and many times I roast pork as an alternative meat to turkey, I place it right on top of the stuffing, then into the oven to bake. Look at that. Don’t you want to just get a fork and dig in?
Apple-Cranberry Cornbread Dressing
- 6 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 large leek, well-cleaned and finely chopped (or 1 large onion, diced)
- 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered (about 1 good cup)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large naval orange
- 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries)
- 8 cups cubed partially dried (and toasted) Cornbread for Stuffing
- 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans or pistachios
- 1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese (see NOTE)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 2 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground mulling spice (see NOTE)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-2 cups broth (you might even need more)
- Melted butter, for topping
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the bacon; cook bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a large bowl, reserving fat in skillet.
Dump the mushrooms in and sauté for 2-3 minutes; add the leek and celery to the skillet. Lower the heat to medium and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 4-6 minutes, until onion has softened and is just starting to color. Add garlic; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Pour the mixture into bowl with bacon.
Using a potato peeler, remove the rind from the orange. Cut the zest strips into the finest julienne possible; add to the bowl. Cut a slice from each end of the orange; slice away white pith (this is bitter), from top-to-bottom, down to the flesh. Cut the orange in half top-to-bottom; make a V-shaped cut and remove the center “core”. Dice the orange pulp; add the diced orange to bacon mixture, along with the diced apple, dried cranberries, cornbread cubes, pecans, cheese, parsley, thyme, mulling spice, pepper and salt; stir well.
Add 1 cup of broth and toss gently. Add additional broth, 1/2 cup at a time, tossing gently after each addition. You want the mixture to me slightly moist, but not soggy. Pour into a well-oiled 9X13-inch baking dish. Drizzle with melted butter and cover with foil. Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, raise the heat to 400°F and continue baking until the top crisps and is nicely browned, about 25-35 minutes. Serve immediately or cool and serve at room temperature.
NOTE: Feel free to increase the amount of cheese. I have used a good sharp cheddar, grated, as well. I usually dust the top of the dressing with additional shaved Asiago, about 10 minutes before I remove the pan from the oven. Any earlier and it has a tendency to burn or become unpleasantly crispy.
You may grind the mulling spice in a pepper grinder or coffee grinder, but it needs to be fine. If you prefer, simply omit the mulling spice and add 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/8 teaspoon each ground cloves and cinnamon.
If gluten is an issue, make certain to use a gluten-free cornbread.
Apple-Cranberry Cornbread Dressing Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2019. All rights reserved.
So, you have options—completely savory, as in the Savory Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Leeks and Mushrooms. Or add some apple and keep a bit of the savory for a completely different option. Either way, you and your guests will have happy tummies.