In our home, no Thanksgiving is complete without this recipe for Apple Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel and Pancetta. It’s a buttery, sweet, and savory explosion that is simply irresistible. Bits of apple perfectly compliment the cornbread, while the crispy pancetta bits add a little something special. The fennel, sage and thyme are so wonderfully aromatic that you won’t know whether to eat it or load it on your plate and sniff it!
Wether you call it “dressing” or “stuffing , who cares- it’s just delicious! I mean I can hardly say no to bread as it is, mix it up herbs, spices and aromatics and I become completely powerless to resisting the temptation.
How it came to be that my family’s traditional stuffing was cornbread based is actually a mystery! We aren’t southern. Well, I am from South Florida. But if you know anything about Florida, you already know that the more south you go the less southern it becomes! So I definitely wasn’t influenced by the norms of my geographic region.
I suppose, back when I was a newly-wed starting my own family traditions, I just started with a Cornbread Stuffing on our first Thanksgiving and never swayed. Of course, I’ve tried numerous deviations over the years: fennel, bacon, pancetta, sausage, cranberries, nuts, store bought cornbread vs homemade.. lots of experiments. And yet, this is the recipe that I can really say is my true traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. I hope you like it as much as my husband does!!
Apple Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel and Pancetta
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups medium-grind cornmeal
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup canola oil
- cornbread from above recipe cubed and 2 days old
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 oz diced pancetta crispy
- 2 cups onion diced
- 2 granny smith apples peeled diced
- ½ cup fennel cored, diced
- ½ cup celery diced
- 2 tbsp sage, fresh chopped
- 1 tbsp thyme, fresh chopped
- 3 eggs beaten
- 2½ cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
Prepare the Cornbread
- Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly coat a 13×9″ baking dish with nonstick spray.
- Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, maple syrup and butter in a medium bowl. Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
- Bake 20-25 minutes. Let cornbread cool slightly in dish, then transfer to cutting board and cube. Transfer back to baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and let sit out for at least 1 day, preferably 2 to become stale. (Stale bread is best for stuffing
Assemble the Cornbread Stuffing
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Stir in onion, fennel, celery, and apples. Cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Then stir in sage and thyme, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add salt and pepper, remove from heat. Toss herbed mixture with cubed cornbread. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and chicken broth. Pour over cornbread mixture and toss to coat, then transfer to prepared baking dish. Bake until toasted on top and hot throughout, about 30 minutes