This might possibly be the best stuffing (or dressing, actually, since it was cooked outside the turkey) that I’ve ever had. It was moist, flavorful and had great texture, too. A real winner all around.
We started with breakfast sauage, out of the casing:
Fennel, onion and more:
Starting to come together:
Into the pan!
Cornbread with Sausage and Fennel
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage or links, casings removed
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, divided, plus more for baking dish
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds for serving
4 celery stalks, chopped
8 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Bosc or Comice pears, peeled, chopped
½ cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
2 cups (or more) low-sodium chicken broth, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
Preheat oven to 300°. Divide cornbread between 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Bake, tossing occasionally, until beginning to brown in spots and dry out, 40–45 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up with a spoon, until dark brown, 6–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a small bowl; let cool.
Reduce heat to medium and heat 8 Tbsp. butter in same skillet. Add fennel, celery, scallions, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add pears and wine, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until wine is almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 400°. Butter a 13x9x2” baking dish. Combine sausage, fennel mixture, parsley, marjoram, thyme, sage, and 1½ cups broth in a large bowl. Add cornbread and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Let sit 10 minutes, then add remaining ½ cup broth and toss, adding more broth if needed (bread should be very moist but not soggy). Add eggs and mix gently just to combine. Transfer dressing to prepared baking dish and dot with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.
Cover dressing with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until dressing is golden and crisp on top, 20–30 minutes longer.
Serve topped with fennel fronds.
DO AHEAD: Cornbread can be toasted 1 day ahead; store tightly wrapped at room temperature. Fennel and sausage mixture can be cooked 1 day ahead. Cover and chill separately.