Cornbread and Madeira Fig Dressing

We have used this dressing for Thanksgiving for at least three years. We think the chef Bianca Borges Henry went overboard on the amount of figs. We use about half that amount. Soaking the figs in the madeira (a fortified wine) is essential to get the right flavor. We also use a spicier Italian sausage than the original recipe calls for. This is the website for the recipe.

Apparently, there have been problems with the MSNBC website for this recipe, and some of our readers have been unable to locate the recipe there. We include the recipe here for that reason.


2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth

3 cups soft dried figs, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3/4 cup Madeira or Tawny Port wine

2 lbs. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (optional)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 Tbsp cooking oil (olive or canola)

1 large yellow onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 4 cups

4 stalks celery, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 2 cups

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 2 cups

one 9- X 13-inch pan cornbread for stuffing (recipe follows below), broken into 1-inch pieces

2 rounds white bread, crust removed and cut into 1-inch pieces, about 12 cups

6 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh sage

4 Tbsp coasrely chopped parsley

3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

Cornbread for Dressing

3 cups yellow cornmeal

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp granulated sugar

2 Tbsp baking powder

1 & 1/2 tsp salt

2 & 1/4 cups milk

1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

Direction for Dressing:

1. In a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Lower heat and let cook at a rolling simmer until reduced by half.

2. Place chopped figs in a medium-size bowl. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm madeira until simmering. Pour over figs and let sit.

3. Return skillet to heat. If using sausage, add to pan and break into small pieces. Cook until lightly browned. Remove from pan, leaving fat. Add butter to pan. If not using sausage, add butter and oil to pan.

4. Add the onions, celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 10-15 minutes. (If pan seems dry, add a splash of chicken broth to keep vegetables moist.)

5. In a large bowl, combine cornbread and peasant bread pieces. Add onion mixture when done, figs and madeira, sage, parsley and pecans, and toss gently.

6. Add chicken broth one cup at atime, tossing to combine. When all is thoroughly moistened, taste a bit and add salt and pepper as needed.

7. Pour into a buttered 5-6 quart casserole dish, approximately 11- X 15- X 2-inches. Wrap in foil and place in freezer.

To cook: Remove dish from freezer when the turkey goes into the oven, or approximately 2-3 hours before baking. Let sit at room temperature. Place in a 375 degree F oven and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20-30 minutes more, until golden brown on top.

Directions for Cornbread:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9- X 13-inch baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix the 5 dry ingredients. Add the milk, oil and eggs and stir to combine.

3. Pour into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes, until center springs back when pressed.

4. Let cool in pan.

Here is a picture of this year’s product:

Serves 8.

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