Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}

Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}This year will be an unusual Thanksgiving for my family. Not only will all of us be together over the holiday, but we’re also going to be home in Fort Worth and we’re going to make the big meal ourselves. I honestly can’t remember the last time we did all that–I think I was eleven!

Since we’ll be cooking in my mom’s kitchen, she’s the lady in charge. So far, she’s requested a Butterscotch Cream Pie. Other than that, nothing’s set in stone.* None of us are particularly fond of turkey, so we’re not married to the traditional meal.

Note: I mean, there will be Artichoke Dip. It’s not the holidays without Artichoke Dip.

Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}Now, I can live without the traditional sweet potatoes, the cranberry sauce, and even the rolls. I generally don’t care for gravy, so that’s no biggie. But stuffing…well, it’s my lone non-negotiable side dish. 

I’ve already got a great stuffing recipe in the archives–the base is homemade cream biscuits! I love that recipe, but I’m going in a different direction this year. My little sister has cut gluten out of her diet over the past several months, so this year, I’m using my accidentally-gluten-free Southern-Style Cornbread as the base, and doctoring it up with apples and fennel. So freaking good, y’all.

Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}Cornbread Stuffing with Apple & Fennel might be my new favorite Thanksgiving side. The southern cornbread makes for a super savory base, but the pops of sweetness from the apples and fennel keep it interesting. Adding to the flavor are all the aromatics (celery, onion, garlic) and herbs (parsley, sage, thyme) you’d expect in a stuffing, plus some vegetable stock. Oh, and butter–a whole stick. It’s holiday food, not everyday food.

Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}My grandmother (the one with the biscuits and Lemon Meringue Pie) made a cornbread dressing that was so dense and moist that it could be sliced into squares. (It also had hard-boiled eggs in it. 😬😫😑) This recipe has very little in common with hers. While it’s definitely moist and buttery, this stuffing cannot be sliced and requires a serving spoon. 

Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}With Thanksgiving just fifteen days away, I can’t wait to share this with my family. The cornbread base gives a nod to our Texan heritage, the apples and fennel are seasonal and delicious, and it’s all gluten-free, so everyone can enjoy it. Oh, and it can’t be sliced and stacked like a pyramid on a serving dish, so we’ve got something for which to be thankful.Cornbread Stuffing with Apples & Fennel {Gluten-Free}

Cornbread Stuffing with Apple & Fennel {Gluten-Free}
makes 8 servings

Southern-Style Cornbread:
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon bacon fat (or neutral-flavored oil)

Preheat oven to 425F.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Combine buttermilk and egg in a measuring cup. Whisk together with a fork. Fold into dry ingredients. Fold in melted butter.

Heat an 8- or 9-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat for at least 3 minutes. Add bacon fat and coat. Add cornbread batter. Cook for one minute before transferring to the oven. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

For the stuffing:
1 recipe Southern-Style Cornbread, cut into cubes, stale
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 medium white onion, small diced
2-3 stalks celery, small diced
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and small diced
2 large baking apples, peeled and small diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2-2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided
1/2-3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt 
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Remove cornbread from the pan and slice into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread cubes onto a dry sheet pan and let sit uncovered overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9×13-inch casserole. Set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, fennel, apples, and garlic, and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add sage, thyme, and parsley and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Pour in 1 cup of vegetable broth and turn the heat up to medium high. Once liquid comes to a simmer, remove pan from heat.

Transfer dry cornbread cubes to a large mixing bowl. Pour in the vegetable mixture and mix until combined. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter and add to the stuffing. Fold in an additional 1-1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, depending on your taste.

Cover pan with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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