Sweet potato cornbread dressing

This was inspired several years ago by a trip to Sweet Potatoes restaurant in Winston-Salem, where I had catfish stuffed with sweet potato cornbread dressing. Making this is a multi-step process as you have to bake the cornbread first, but you can do that a day ahead.

Toasted pecans are a good substitute if you can’t find country ham or want a vegetarian dish. (Don’t use wet-cured supermarket ham; it won’t add the flavor or the texture you want.)

  1. Crumble the cornbread into small bite-sized pieces. If the cornbread is still moist, spread it on a baking sheet and place in a 200-degree oven until dry. It should not be crispy or dessicated, just a bit stale.

    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 3 stalks celery, diced
    • 1 large onion, diced

    Cook the celery and onion in the butter slowly until soft but not brown.

    • 1 cup diced country ham
    • 1 teaspoon allspice
    • [frac]1/4[/frac] teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • up to [frac]1/2[/frac] cup chicken or turkey stock

    Combine with the crumbled cornbread, cooked vegetables, and any butter left in the pan. Use just enough stock to moisten, and omit it if you’re actually going to use this to stuff your bird.

  2. If using as stuffing, follow the directions in your favorite recipe for roast chicken or turkey. Otherwise, place the dressing in a lightly greased casserole dish and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through and browned. Or, if you like, bake in greased muffin tins and serve one “muffin” to each guest.