The trick to making good cornbread stuffing is to cut the cornbread into bite-sized cubes and then to sear them a bit before adding them to the vegetables and stock. The reason for this is that cornbread is much more crumbly than croutons, and will fall apart if not treated beforehand.
I made my cornbread dressing with commonly used winter and root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, celery and button mushrooms to keep it very simple and not overpower the homemade cornbread itself. Cornbread is after all the star of the show. You can also repeat the flavors from the cornbread in the stuffing itself. Roasted jalapeño, bits of corn and cheddar cheese would work, though I would use shredded cheese in that case.
Servings: 8 servings
5 cups cornbread (see tips)
1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium vegetable broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 sprigs lemon thyme
2 sprigs oregano
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced lengthwise
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, peeled and diced
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Remove the thyme leaves and oregano from the stems. Hold the top of the stem with one hand and slide the other hand along the stem, pulling the leaves off. Bruise the leaves a little in a mortar and pestle to release the flavor and make the dish more potent. Finely chop the herbs. Set aside.
Coarsely crumble the cornbread into about 2-inch pieces.
In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onions. When the color is translucent, season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the garlic. As the garlic becomes slightly golden, add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter.
In the same pot, add 1 tablespoons of oil. Stir-fry the diced turnips and carrots. Cook until slightly browned and caramelized (about 5-7 minutes). Add the chopped herbs. Season with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the celery. Add 1/4 cup of vegetable broth. Stir well until all the liquid is evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Season with another 1/4 teaspoons of salt. If the mixture starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable stock. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a platter. Set aside.
At the last minute, add the remaining oil to the pot. When the oil is hot, add the pieces of cornbread. Add the remaining vegetable stock. Gently stir the cornbread. The entire mixture should be moist, but not mushy. Add the vegetable mixture. Add more salt (if necessary) and black pepper. Finish with parsley and the parmesan powder. Stir well. Cook for another minute.