Gigi Louise used to mercifully make an extra pan of this dressing for family holiday gatherings because we'd all get so forlorn and overcome with malaise when she had to tell us the leftovers were all gone. So naturally I make extra as well. I like to leave my small cast iron skillet out handy so folks can heat up a little at their whim. Cast iron makes it all crispy golden and eternally inspiring.
Now, I warn you. This is one of those real gen-u-ine granny recipes, the kind where granny assumes you're as intuitive a cook as she is so she doesn't fuss with jotting down the details. You know, piffly trifles like how much broth to use. So when you get stumped you ring granny up for the requisite empirical data and she helpfully drawls, "Well, honey, you know. Just keep tipping more broth in till it looks right fallin' off a spoon." And... that would be roughly how much? Just a ballpark, a clue, anything... "Oh, just stick your hand down in it, honey, and if it runs through your fingers kinda thick-like but not runny exactly, you're about right." Yes, this actually happened to me.
But, oh, is it ever worth navigating the guesswork. Last year, Claire made our Thanksgiving feast and she managed to get it to fall off the spoon just right on her first try. So hey, muster your courage and give it a go.
When we make it for Thanksgiving here in a few days, I'll try to take some helpful pictures of the kinda-thick-like-but-not-runny-exactly stage to post here for you. But then again that might take all the fun out of it for you.
Gigi Louise's Cornbread Dressing
2 large pans of cornbread
(NOTE: Do not use sweet or cakey cornbread! Optimally, it should be baked in cast iron skillets for good crust. Gigi's cornbread recipe is here. Note that her recipe makes a small pan of cornbread, so for the 2 large pans needed for this dressing you'd need to make two double recipes. You can make the cornbread a couple of days in advance - the dressing is improved by slightly dry, stale bread. You can actually bake the cornbread a month in advance and freeze it.)
2 hamburger buns, toasted (or 4 slices of toasted white bread)
1 big onion, chopped
2 cups chopped celery (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice)
4 beaten eggs
1 T sage*
black pepper to taste (Be very generous! Even more generous than that!)
salt if needed (this depends largely on the amount of salt in your broth)
Broth - Gigi told me she cooked her Thanksgiving turkey with one quart of water in the bottom of the roaster (I assume she used a rack) so she would have a head start on broth, and then she supplemented with canned broth until she had enough to make the dressing "a bit soupy." I usually make the dressing ahead of the turkey, though, so I use all chicken broth. I buy the free range organic broth that comes in aseptic boxes by the case at Costco. Swanson's canned broth is good also.
A large glass Pyrex casserole dish, buttered, will give this a good crunchy crust on the bottom and edges.
Cook at 350 until firm and golden on top -- at least an hour.
*If you're serving nursing mothers, you should warn them about the sage in the dressing, as it can significantly limit breast milk production.