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Masa Cornbread Stuffing

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

My grandmother used to make the most amazing chile-flecked cornbread dressing (we say "stuffing" even if we don't stuff it into anything but our bellies) for the holidays. After she passed away, I wanted to find a way to include her holiday staple recipe, but add a more traditional Mexican twist.

Since tamales are always on our table during the holidays, I figured it would be the perfect accompaniment to her rich, warm stuffing. Instead of just cornbread, I make a mix of masa and cornbread batter and use it to create an earthy, delicious base for a stuffing my family really enjoys. I think my grandma would be proud.

Note: It is best to make the masa-cornbread one day before you make the stuffing, so it has time to air dry. I have included instructions for same-day preparation as well.

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RECIPE: Masa Cornbread Stuffing

Yields 8-10 servings

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients

For the masa cornbread:

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup masa harina de maiz, such as Maseca
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 sticks salted butter, melted (can substitute 1/2 cup melted manteca)
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the stuffing:

  • Prepared masa cornbread
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 2 poblano chiles, fire roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 6 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound ground chorizo, cooked and drained (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 10 softened corn husks (optional – for presentation)

Directions

To make the cornbread:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour (minus 2 tablespoons), cornmeal, masa, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, chicken stock, melted butter or manteca (minus 1 tablespoon) and egg. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Whisk until the batter is light and fluffy. It will feel very thick, but don't worry, you've made it right.
  3. Grease a large baking dish (I prefer a 10x15-inch Pyrex dish) with the remaining one tablespoon of butter/manteca, then use the remaining two tablespoons of flour to dust the baking dish. Shake off the excess flour. Spread the batter into the baking dish. You may need to use damp hands to press it into the pan since the batter is so thick. Bake for 40 minutes.
  4. Let the cornbread cool for one hour before removing from the pan, then cut the cornbread into 1-inch cubes. Place them on a large baking sheet in a single layer (you may need more than one baking sheet) and allow them to air dry overnight, uncovered. If you are pressed for time, bake the cubes in a 250 degree F oven for 30-45 minutes until crisp and dry.
  5. Once your cornbread has air-dried overnight or crisped in the oven, set it aside.

To make the stuffing:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a pot that is large enough to fit all of the cornbread (later) add 4 tablespoons of butter and turn the stove to medium high.
  3. In a separate pot, add 4 cups of chicken stock and turn to medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and keep heated.
  4. Once the butter is melted and foamy in the large pot, add the ground chorizo (if using). Cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Then add the diced chiles, onion and celery. Saute until the onion and celery are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano to the mixture, then stir to combine.
  5. Add the cornbread cubes and salt to the large pot and stir to combine. Turn off the heat on both pots on the stove. Slowly add the heated chicken stock, one ladle full at a time, to the cornbread mixture. Stir as you add, and stop once the cornbread has softened and is to the consistency you prefer. You may not use all of the broth. If you like a wetter stuffing, you can add more.
  6. Use the remaining tablespoon of butter to grease another large baking dish. Add your moistened stuffing to the baking dish and press it down firmly. Cover with 2-3 softened hojas and then cover with a lid or tin foil. This will keep the stuffing moist. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then an additional 15-20 minutes uncovered, until the top is golden brown and crispy.

Serve warm on top of a bed of soft corn husks along with your other holiday food favorites. We love to serve this with turkey cooked in rich mole poblano. The mole makes a delicious gravy for the stuffing, too.

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Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

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