Cook the Book

Legacy Cornbread Dressing From 'Choosing Sides'

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[Photograph: Ben Pieper]

Tara Mataraza Desmond's cornbread dressing from her new cookbook, Choosing Sides, has been in her husband's family for a couple of generations. In it, she interweaves Southern-style all-cornmeal croutons with rich, savory breakfast sausage, sweet Rome apples, and a plethora of herbs and aromatics. It's not a dressing one could turn into a waffle, but it is distinctive in its own right; in fact, this cornbread dressing would make a fine side dish for meals other than Thanksgiving, nestled up against a pork loin or next to a platter of fried chicken.

Why I picked this recipe: Cornbread is pretty much my favorite baked good, so I hardly needed a reason to turn it into my favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

What worked: As is the case with most dressing or stuffing recipes, this is easy to put together and flexible to cook. Pop it in the oven with the turkey or other side dishes, and it will still come out great.

What didn't: I wish I had toasted my cornbread cubes instead of staling them overnight. Even with the 2 cups of chicken stock, the bread was a little on the dry side come serving time.

Suggested tweaks: If you have your own favorite cornbread recipe, it would likely work here as well. And if you're feeding vegetarians at your holiday table, you could leave out the sausage and use butter to sauté the aromatics.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have 5 (five) copies each of Choosing Sides and The Wild Chef to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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