I wanted to have a little Thanksgiving series on the blog for several reasons. I make unique, Southern, family-inspired recipes that are all vegetarian friendly. I have fiddled with the ratios and with veggie-friendly substitutions until I can find the right balance of flavors that best represent the culture that I come from, as well as our deep-abiding commitment to good food.
In addition, all of these dishes make only 3 or 4 servings. Now that I am living so far away from everybody, it is difficult to make it home for Thanksgiving. Here, we end up having small-portions (because there’s only two of us), so I also edited all of the recipes so that I’m not making enough to feed twenty people!
I am posting the recipe for dressing first, mainly because it is very near and dear to my heart. This is an edited version of the recipe that my Mimi used when I was growing up.
We would always travel up north to Decatur, Alabama for Thanksgiving. There, my Mimi would make the best dressing you’ll find east of the Mississippi! Even better, she’d make me a special, little dish of meat-free dressing — with no chicken broth.
In the South, community is everything and food is a huge way that we bring people together and communicate our love for one another. The food culture out there is a really, really special thing that I have never experienced anywhere else. Each family has its own set of traditions and recipes that they follow. The recipe that I use has a little bit of my dad’s family in it, and a little bit of my mom’s. Homemade cornbread, in the tradition of the Deep South, and tons of fresh sage, a Sicilian flavor that (in my opinion) completes the dish!
Before we get started with the recipe– a word about terminology. In the South, we are very particular about our Thanksgiving food vocabulary. Dressing is what we are making here. It will never ever go inside of a bird, and it is completely vegetarian! Stuffing is at some point inside of the turkey. It is never vegetarian, and often more crumbly than dressing. Southern-style dressing is very moist and really like nothing else you’ve ever tasted! Keep this in mind when you make the recipe- do not make it dry! It is not meant to be cake-y or like any other casserole, it is wetter than that and this is part of what makes the dish Southern and delicious!
Southern-Style, Vegetarian Dressing
[Recipe inspired by Mimi’s own dressing! (she even has her own blog, which you can check out here!)]
Makes only 4 servings!
1/2 stick salted butter
1/3 medium onion
2 stalks celery
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of herbs d’Provence
10 medium-large leaves of fresh sage
3 cups cornbread (you can make your own using my recipe for Johnny Cake— half of this recipe will make the perfect amount of cornbread you need)
3 cups of stale, white bread (I used a pugliese loaf)
1/3 cup mushroom gravy (be sure to check the ingredients to make sure it’s vegetarian!)
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
Grease two, small pans with salted butter and preheat the oven to 350° F.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Chop the onion and the celery.
Sautée them in the skillet with the butter for several minutes.
Add the salt, Cajun seasoning, black pepper, and herbs d’Provence.
Wash and carefully slice the sage leaves into small strips. Finally, add them into the pan with everything else.
Cube the cornbread and the pugliese loaf (you can measure out the cups by cubing).
Put the cubed bread into a large bowl and add in the gravy and 1 cup of the vegetable broth. Stir everything together and use your spoon to break apart the bread cubes into smaller pieces.
Add in the cooked vegetables and stir that together. Finally, add in the egg as a binder. Stir everything together and use the rest of the broth to insure that the mixture is the correct consistency. You want to make sure that the dressing is wet but not soupy. It should be fairly mushy, like cooked grits or polenta.
Pour it into your dishes and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the dressing is browned on the edges and solidified (but still moist). If the dressing becomes too dry, you can add a bit more broth and cook it for longer. If it is too wet, just cook for longer.
Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!