In my family, dressing is serious business. It breaks into our conversations and then onto our dinner table every holiday season but it will never be the same as my grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing.
Truthfully, Helen’s cornbread dressing was never the same from year to year. I hear it started out in her Texan family with giblets, hard-boiled eggs, and celery in it. None of those ingredients remained by the time I came around. The key to Helen’s dressing was the cornbread and biscuits she would make several days ahead of time and crumble in a paper bag to dry. Lots of butter, salt, and onion went into the final product. It was simple but it was good.
This dressing never went in a bird. Helen always baked it separately in a Pyrex dish and it took on the consistency of dense coffee cake when cool (must have been the butter). She often made two dishes worth for Thanksgiving so we could eat the leftovers with gravy for days afterwards. I think leftover dressing might be my dad’s favorite breakfast.
I immediately thought of Cornbread Dressing when I saw this month’s recipe for the Burwell General Store Recipe Swap. Over the past few months, this swap has become my favorite blog activity. I love the wacky inspiration we bloggers get from the recipes Christianna sends!
With very specific taste and high standards as far as dressing goes, I set out to make something that was neither the original Wild Rice Dressing from the Pine Tavern in Bend, Oregon, nor Helen’s Cornbread Dressing (I’ll make that for you some other time). I thought about what I might do with this recipe on-and-off for a month. Then yesterday came around and I realized I needed to make something, asap!
I bought wild rice. I bought tempeh. I had baby bella mushrooms in my fridge and a lonely fennel bulb. I knew I would not be including a cup of bacon drippings, as the Pine Tavern did. Although, I have had bacon-brain ever since the side of Brussels sprouts I ordered in a Napa restaurant arrived smelling strongly of the bacon grease they had obviously been cooked in (I ate them and boy were they tasty). Slip-ups in my vegetarianism aside, I knew I could make a delicious, meat-free dressing for any winter night.
I used a pressure cooker for my rice so the recipe below provides instructions for that method. For other wild rice cooking instructions, check this website.
- 1 cup wild rice, uncooked
- 1 1/2 cups water (for cooking rice in pressure cooker)
- 12 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 package tempeh, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon seasoning of choice (I used an organic, salt-free, all-purpose seasoning but lots of things would be good!)
- To cook the rice in a pressure cooker, place rinsed rice and water in a heatproof bowl and cover bowl tightly with aluminum foil.
- Place bowl on trivet inside pressure cooker. Make sure there is about 1 cup of water in the pressure cooker itself.
- Secure lid on pressure cooker, place weight on top of lid, and heat over high heat until weight begins to rock.
- Reduce heat slightly so weight rocks gently and start timer for 22-25 minutes.
- While rice is cooking, saute garlic, fennel, tempeh, mushrooms, and seasoning in a large skillet. I added them to the skillet in that order.
- Turn off heat and set skillet aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly oil the inside of a large baking dish.
- When time is upon the rice, remove cooker from heat and allow pressure to come down on it's own.
- Remove lid, remove inner bowl, and add rice to ingredients in skillet. (You could just eat it now but I baked mine for a little while to crisp up the top a little...and keep it warm till Lee got home)
- Pour or scoop dressing into baking dish and place in oven for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and heap dressing onto plates.