Thanksgiving Hack: Gluten-free cornbread and sausage-chestnut dressing

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Our family spends Thanksgiving with a friend who has celiac disease, so we have a mostly gluten-free dinner — I do make rolls and a pie crust with wheat flour, but also gluten-free versions for Jerry. A dish we all look forward to is the gluten-free dressing, which starts with a tasty cornbread. You could use your favorite cornbread recipe for the dressing if you don’t need to avoid gluten.

While these recipes are forgiving, and you can use the most readily available ingredients, several ingredients merit mention. Likewise, for the dressings, proportions are flexible: don’t discard a handful of excess diced celery; use it. The critical part is tasting for seasoning as you cook. And stuffing the dressing into the turkey turns it into … a stuffing, of course!

gorkha-palace-horiz-bannerThis Hack is underwritten by Gorkha Palace: Using fresh & organic ingredients, Gorkha Palace brings you an eclectic range of cuisines of Nepal, India and Tibet thus offering our patrons a unique culinary experience.

Fresh, wholegrain cornmeal is sweet and flavorful and makes a difference in these — and other — recipes. I used organic cornmeal from Whole Grain Milling in Welcome, Minn., available in bulk at Lakewinds, the Wedge, and other co-ops. I also love the organic cornmeal produced by Greg Reynolds at Riverbend Farm in Delano, Minn., but it’s unavailable this year. “We had a very cool wet spring and early summer,” Reynolds wrote in an email. “The corn got planted late, and we had a frost before it matured. Consequently, no corn crop.”

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Thanksgiving at our house is a time to remember the work of farmers like Reynolds and the Hilgendorfs of Whole Grain Milling, who provide the beautiful, nourishing raw materials for our feast.

Another ingredient worth mentioning is wild rice. Fire-parched grain from Native American reservations has more flavor and cooks more evenly than the paddy-raised version. Look for the Native Harvest brand, which supports the White Earth Land Recovery Project (available online and at the Wedge). It is a finer variety of wild rice and cooks quite fast. Its smoky, mushroomy flavor works well in the cornbread-mushroom dressing.

For the cornbread, I use superfine brown rice flour from Authentic Foods (available online from Authentic Foods or Amazon), but Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour will work well for this recipe, and it can be found everywhere. In cookies and yeast breads, the superfine milling provides a lighter, less-grainy result.

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Cornbread for Jerry
4 tbsp butter for bread plus 2 tsp for the pan
1 c cornmeal
¾ c brown rice flour
⅛ c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 c milk
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Grease an 8-inch square pan with 2 teaspoons of butter. Melt and lightly brown 4 tablespoons of butter in a small frying pan. Set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, rice flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs.

4. Pour the milk and egg mixture onto the dry ingredients. Pour the butter on top, and mix just to combine. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold, and allow to cool completely.

Cornbread Dressing With Sausage and Chestnuts
1 recipe Cornbread for Jerry, or other cornbread made in an 8-inch square pan, approx. 4 c
2 tbsp butter plus more for the baking dish
2 medium onions, diced (10 oz, 2 c)
8 celery stalks, diced (9 oz, 2 c)
⅔ c parsley (measured after chopping)
1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1½ tsp dried
1 tbsp sage (measured after chopping, 8-12 leaves)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 mild Italian sausages (7 oz. I use Broders’)
8 oz peeled, cooked chestnuts (1½ c, approximately 28. See Note.)
salt and pepper to taste
1 c or more turkey or chicken stock
drippings from the roasting pan

1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or two 8- or 9-inch round dishes.

2. Cut the cornbread into ½-inch cubes and put in a large mixing bowl.

3. Heat a large saute pan or skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, and gently saute the onion and celery until soft and translucent.

4. Meanwhile, chop the herbs. When the onions and celery are soft, season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the herbs and mix. Scrape the vegetables onto the cornbread.

5. Reheat the saute pan, adding a tablespoon of olive oil. Remove the sausage from its casing. Add it in pieces to the pan, and continue to break it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. When it has browned, place it in the bowl with the cornbread.

6. Break the chestnuts into large pieces and add to the bowl. Lightly toss the ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle on 1 cup of turkey stock as you continue to toss.

7. Put the dressing into the prepared baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven with the turkey. Add several spoonfuls of drippings from the turkey roasting pan as the dressing cooks. If you prefer a crisper top, remove the foil halfway through the baking time. The dressing will take approximately 45 minutes at 325°F, and 25 to 30 minutes at 425°F. When the dressing is done, the sides and bottom will have browned lightly, and the dressing should be hot throughout.

Yield: about 10 cups, serving 8 to 10.

If the dressing is done before the turkey, remove it from the oven, and reheat it while the turkey rests.

Unbaked dressing may be stuffed into the turkey cavity just before placing the turkey in the oven.

We used cooked, vacuum-packed chestnuts, which are available in the baking or fresh vegetable section of many grocery stores. Fresh chestnuts should be roasted or poached and peeled in advance.

Variation: Cornbread Dressing With Wild Rice and Mushrooms
⅔ c uncooked wild rice (2 heaping cups cooked)
1 lb chanterelles or crimini mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
1 shallot, about 2 tbsp minced
salt, pepper, gratings of nutmeg
the ingredients for Cornbread Dressing With Sausage and Chestnuts, minus the sausage, olive oil and chestnuts

1. Cook the wild rice according to package directions (Rinse. Boil in a generous amount of lightly salted water for 20 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Drain.)

2. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a saute pan or skillet, and saute the mushrooms until any moisture they render has evaporated. Add the shallots, and continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft and fragrant. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

3. Follow directions for Cornbread Dressing With Sausage and Chestnuts, but omit the sausage, olive oil, and chestnuts. Omit step 5, and add the wild rice and mushrooms in step 6.


  1. Jane Rosemarin

    I haven’t tested the cornbread with non-dairy milk, but it should work. A quarter-cup of olive oil could be used in place of the 4 tbsp butter if the lactose in butter is an issue. Good luck!

Comments are closed.