My friend Lafe Solomon is a multi-talented guy, as well as a great friend. Among his many talents, Lafe is a fabulous cook. Plus, he has a trove of recipes that he is generous about sharing with those of us who know to ask. And believe me, I'm one who knows to ask!
Two years ago, after a little prompting about needing some Thanksgiving inspiration, Lafe gave me his recipe for cornbread stuffing balls. They were an immediate hit. Last year they were just as popular, and I didn’t wait for a request this year before putting them on the menu. Although this stuffing isn’t yet traditional in our family, it’s only a matter of time. By next year, I’m betting that we won’t be able to figure out how we ever had Thanksgiving dinner without it.
The stuffing is made into balls and baked, so it’s much easier to figure out portions than a stuffing made as a casserole. The original recipe calls for chicken broth. I substituted vegetable broth for the vegetarians in our family. As one of the meat-eaters in our crowd, I can vouch that this vegetarian version tastes wonderful with turkey.
This recipe makes a lot of stuffing. If you are only having a small group for dinner, cut the proportions in half and make a smaller batch. The recipe calls for cornbread. Normally, I use a mix (Trader Joe’s). If you’re into making everything from scratch, be my guest on the cornbread. On the other hand, if you’re in a hurry and need a shortcut, substitute ready-made cornbread from a grocery or bakery. Lafe's directions were sketchy. I've expanded and slightly modified the directions to make them suitable for cooks who aren't as experienced as Lafe.
Lafe’s Cornbread Stuffing Balls
Servings - 30+ balls (serving 10-15)
Total cost - $15 for batch/$1 - 1.50 per serving
- 1 box cornbread mix – enough to make an 8” x 8” x 2” square (Trader Joe’s mix requires 1 egg, ½ cup oil and ¾ cup milk pictured, but not listed separately below.)
- 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
- 2 cups saltines cracker crumbs, a bit more than 1 of the 4 individually wrapped packages in a box of saltines.
- 3-4 tablespoons of butter
- 3 onions, finely chopped, approximately 4½ cups
- 3 stalks of celery, washed and finely chopped, approximately 1⅓ - 1½ cups
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ cup minced (finely chopped) fresh parsley
- 2 eggs
- salt, pepper and dried thyme to taste – I use about 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme crushed between my fingertips, and a heavy sprinkling of pepper.
- approximately 3 cups of broth (see above – chicken or vegetable)
- ½ cup chopped pecans (optional) Note: You can toast them for extra deep nutty flavor, by spreading them out on baking sheet in a toaster oven pre-heated to 325 degree for 5-10 minutes, watching them carefully so they do not burn and stirring them occasionally.
- 1 apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces (optional)
- Very large bowl - at least 4.5 quarts/4.25 litres
- Large fork
- Measuring cup for liquids
- Measuring cup for solid ingredients
- 8” x 8” baking pan for cornbread
- Cutting board
- Large pan for cooking vegetables
- Large baking dish or cookie sheet with 1" sides for baking the stuffing balls. (This recipe makes a lot so, if you prefer not to bake batches separately, use 2 large baking dishes/cookie sheets.)
- Make the cornbread, using the instructions on the box. After it has cooled, crumble it into the bowl with your hands. Go ahead, it's fun.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan. Add the chopped onions, chopped celery and the minced garlic. Sauté those veggies on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until they are translucent, but not brown. Take the pan off the heat and let the veggies cool.
- Crumble the saltines. (To keep the saltines from getting too messy, I use a closed plastic sandwich or food storage bag, crunching them with my hands.) Add the breadcrumbs and saltines to the cornbread and mix with your hands until combined. I do like to play with food, but this is the best way to combine these dry ingredients. I forgot to buy breadcrumbs, so I used a couple of pieces of bread, chopped up in a food processor. You can bake them slowly for 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees to dry the bread out, but I didn't. And if you don't have a food processor, it's not necessary if the bread is stale or toasted, you can crumble it with your hands or cut into small cubes and then crumble.
- Add the eggs and parsley to the onion, celery and garlic mixture and stir them in.
- Add the veggies to the bread/cracker mixture and mix gently.
- Add 2 cups of broth to the veggie/bread/cracker mixture and gently toss it until the liquid is distributed throughout.
- Add chopped pecans and apple pieces to the stuffing mixture if using them.
- Form the mixture into balls somewhat larger than golf balls, but considerably smaller than baseballs.
- Butter the baking (ovenproof) dish or cookie sheet and place the stuffing balls on it, approximately 2' apart. (The stuffing balls need space around them so the heat circulates and they cook on all sides. Spoon additional broth over them before baking,.
- Bake for 30-50 minutes (depending on ball size), until the stuffing balls are brown. You may want to add additional broth as the stuffing cooks. I turned the balls once, but that may not be necessary.
|1 box cornbread mix||$3.99||Trader Joe's mix + milk, egg & oil|
|2 cups plain breadcrumbs||$0.50||4 slices bread, crumbled|
|2 cups saltines cracker crumbs||$1.00||$3.29 for box/.82 per sleeve of crackers|
|3-4 tablespoons of butter||$0.44||$3.50 per pound/.11 per tablespoon|
|3 onions, finely chopped||$1.50||$2.50 for 3 pound bag/5-6 onions per bag|
|3 stalks of celery||$0.50||$1.99 per bunch|
|2 cloves of garlic, minced||$0.15||$.59 per bulb of garlic|
|½ cup minced parsley||$0.65||$1.29 per bunch|
|2 eggs||$0.28||$1.69 per dozen/.14 per egg|
|1 teaspoon dried thyme||$0.75||$4.99 per .67 oz bottle|
|4 cups of broth||$1.99||$1.99 for 4 cup box|
|½ cup chopped pecans||$2.50||$6.99 for 12 oz/.58 oz|
|1 apple||$0.75||.75 each|