A little bit of everything in an easy dressing you can prepare ahead of time. Easily made vegetarian through omission.
Step 1: Toast Cornbread
Crumble up pre-made cornbread onto a baking sheet, and toast in a 250F oven for about an hour. If you've got stale bread rip it up and toast it too- dressing is a fine time to use it up.
While the cornbread is in the oven we'll prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Step 2: Prepare Base
~2T butter or olive oil
celery and/or fennel stalks, chopped
peppers, chopped (Hot, bell, chipotle, etc; I used all of these.)
leeks, chopped (optional)
Combine ingredients and saute until onions are soft.
Add chopped apples and a bag of cranberries, stir, and remove from heat.
Note that I'm NOT giving you quantities here- it's entirely a question of personal taste. Just about anything will work.
Step 3: Prepare Sausage
I like to use at least two types of sausage in my dressing. The specific type doesn't really matter so much as the variety of flavors introduced. Obviously, skip this step if you're making vegetarian dressing.
Try to get one of the "spicy/hot breakfast sausages"; these usually come in a tube, and can be made of pork or turkey. Extrude the mush into a hot pan, and stir around until fully cooked.
The other variety should be a chorizo, linguica, or other Iberian sausage. These are often pre-cooked, and just need to be into bite-size pieces for addition to the dressing.
Step 4: Combine Ingredients
Dump the onion mixture into a very large bowl, then mix in the sausage, fresh herbs*, and toasted cornbread. Stir gently to mix.
*Any combination of fresh parsley, rosemary, tarragon, sage, oregano, thyme, etc. I usually add ground allspice at this point too.
Step 5: Add Stock
Add enough chicken or turkey stock* to completely soak the cornbread. You can do this iteratively- add a bit and stir, then check and add some more. You can even add more stock after putting the dressing into the pan and letting it sit overnight in the fridge- if the cornbread isn't soggy by morning, add more stock.
For a richer dressing use a mix of stock and half-and-half, and even beat an egg in if you're feeling particularly enthusiastic. I like my dressing a bit drier, as I then proceed to cover it in giblet gravy.
*I had homemade stock left over from a previous turkey, so it was an obvious choice. Making your own stock is easy if you've got a pressure cooker, and an even smarter idea if you've got decent freezer space. If you're making vegetarian dressing, use homemade veg stock or dissolved veggie boullion cubes.
Step 6: Store Then Bake
Scoop the dressing into an appropriate pan, then cover and refrigerate or freeze until ready for use.
Bake at 350F until cooked through (especially relevant if you've used eggs in the mix) and just golden brown on top.
While you can certainly use this as a stuffing, I don't recommend stuffing turkeys. They cook more slowly, have a higher risk of contamination, and produce a soggy mess from the interior. It's best to cook turkey and dressing as separate items to optimize both.
Step 7: Serve
Allow to cool slightly out of the oven, then serve warm.
Dressing keeps beautifully in the refrigerator or freezer, and is best drowned in wonderful giblet gravy.