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My family and I have lived in the South now for nearly six years. We started off moving to Virginia, then Alabama, and finally North Carolina, where we have lived for the past four years.
The South is a truly unique place. People have their own way of doing things (if someone is using a turn signal, they are most-likely NOT born in the South), their own way of talking, and their own way of cooking.
I’ve run across so many–almost foreign to me–recipes and ingredients native to the South I’ve been a little intimidated to try something new. Especially in the grocery store. I’d hate to buy a giant bag of something, like kale or collard greens, and then have them go to waste because I didn’t know what to do with them.
While most things down here are less expensive than the Northeast, food is not one of them! So I usually stick to my tried and true ingredients. Things I know my kids will eat–not to mention myself–I can be kind of a picky eater (just ask my husband).
Then my friend introduced me toÂ The Produce Box. An amazing service here in North Carolina that brings fresh produce, directly from North Carolina farmers, right to your door. Each week there is a different selection, depending on what’s in season, and unlike a CSA service, you choose exactly what and how much you want to purchase.
I’ve been a customer at The Product Box for just about six months now and I LOVE the company. I can place an order every week or skip weeks when I’m all stocked up. And I can order as much, or as little as I want, a bit of this and that, so I can try a new-to-me item likeÂ Muscadine grapes, purple tomatoes, collards, or mustard greens.
By chance, I met the founder of The Produce Box, Courtney Tellefsen, at a specialty foods competition where we were both judges. I mentioned I was a customer and we talked about what I liked about the service. She suggested we try to collaborate on a post at some point.
A month or two later I emailed Courtney to see if she would be interested in sponsoring a few blog posts featuring recipes that use items I receive in my deliveries. I also sent her some sample titles. She thought they all sounded great.
And that brings us up to here, today’s post. The first installment of what I would love to be a regular feature here in Life of a Ginger. I hope you enjoy it!
You will find comfort food all over the country but here in the South comfort food is taken to a whole new level. Fried chicken, cornbread, chicken and dumplings, shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, fried green tomatoes, and of course, the ever-popular macaroni & cheese, to name a few.
But the food served in the South during the holidays, oh man, there is nothing else like it on earth. People go all out when they are preparing for Christmas dinner. Ham, turkey, prime rib, beef tenderloin, dressing, baked macaroni & cheese (AKA macaroni pie), sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, black-eyed peas, greens, fresh-baked rolls, biscuits. So much food you could feed an army!
Don’t even get me started on the desserts… we would be here all day!
Although we have lived in the South for a while now, I’ve never really tried making any true southern dishes. I decided it was time to correct that.
With Christmas approaching fast, I took a couple of polls on Facebook to see what my Southern friends considered the “be all and end all food” served at their Christmas dinner. The top two answers… baked macaroni & cheese and sausage dressing. Usually made from a special recipe passed down by their grandparents or great-grandparents or it just wouldn’t be Christmas dinner.
When I put a call out for recipes, a friend shared her favorite traditional Southern-style dressing recipe with me. Sausage Dressing with Apples and Pecans It sounded very good, but I had to tweak the recipe here and there to make it more to my liking. I like a dressing that is, well, not dry, but I like a nice crust and I don’t want to too mushy–and this recipe called for a lot of liquid. I also substituted day-old cornbread with some boxed (gasp!) cornbread stuffing mix because I couldn’t find cornbread at any of the stores I went to, and I couldn’t wait one more day to have stale cornbread. And finally, probably the biggest change is I substituted dehydrated onions for the fresh yellow onion because I HATE onions. I don’t mind the flavor in certain things, but I just don’t like fresh onions.
I was extremely happy with how it turned out; even my hard-to-please husband agreed it was delicious, and he rarely compliments my cooking. He’s been in the restaurant business all of his live and is always telling me how I can make something better (in his mind). So when he says it’s delicious, I take it as a high compliment.
In my order from The Product Box this week I had fresh celery, apples, pecans, herbs, andÂ Good Rub Organic Cajun Seasoning, all waiting to be turned into a delicious southern-style sausage dressing.
Southern-Style Sausage Dressing with Apples and Pecans
While the bread is toasting, saute the sausage in a large skillet until brown; remove from the pan and set aside. Do not throw away the pan drippings. Melt the butter in the pan with the sausage fat over medium heat and saute the onions and celery until it begins to lightly brown.
Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan; set aside.
- 1 (6oz) package dry cornbread stuffing mix (like StoveTop)
- 6 cups of cubed, bread (about 10 slices), toasted
- 1/2 pound of hot breakfast sausage (like Jimmy Dean) or spicy Italian sausage
- 1/2 pound of mild breakfast sausage
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup dehydrated onion
- 2 stalks (ribs) of celery (about a cup), chopped
- 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used Granny Smith.)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Good Rub Organic Cajun Seasoning), or to taste, optional
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
- 1 (12 oz) jar of turkey gravy
- 3/4 cup of chopped pecans
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cups of chicken broth or stock, or more to desired consistency
- Toast the cubed bread in 400 degree F oven for about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
- While the bread is toasting, saute the sausage in a large skillet until brown; remove from the pan and set aside. Do not throw away the pan drippings.
- Melt the butter in the pan drippings over medium heat and saute the onions and celery until it begins to lightly brown and smells aromatic.
- Add the apple; cook and stir for about 5 minutes longer
- Remove from heat, return the sausage to the pan and season with the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, sage, thyme, and poultry seasoning. Taste, adjust seasonings, and set aside to cool.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan; set aside.
- In a very large bowl or pot, add the bread crumbs, and cornbread stuffing mix, and toss.
- Stir in the sausage mixture.
- Add the gravy and pecans; gently mix together until well blended.
- Add the beaten eggs, combine well, then pour the mixture into the buttered 9X13 pan. Pat down lightly.
- Pour 1 cup of broth evenly over the stuffing, if desired, add more broth to desired consistency. (I don't like overly wet stuffing, so 1 cup was the perfect amount for me.)
- Bake, uncovered, at 450 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through and top is lightly browned.
- Serve hot and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Deep South Dish recipe Sausage Dressing with Apple and Pecan.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 362Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 701mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 12g
And because no Southern holiday meal would be complete without baked macaroni and cheese (no blue boxes here!!) I also made Chrissy Teigen’s amazing Macaroni and CheeseÂ (get the recipe here). There are a lot of steps, and you will be standing in front of the stove for about 30 minutes or so, but it’s totally worth it!!
This is the first recipe I’ve tried out of Chrissy’s cookbook, Cravings. But there are so many more I’m excited to try now that I know that girl can cook!!
Do you have a favorite recipe you always make for the holidays? What is it?