There's nothing like chicken and dressing. Instead of stuffing cooked inside the bird, it's a Southern tradition to cook the cornbread-based dressing in a pan, usually with added chicken. Here's a more thorough explanation. I took the traditional chicken and dressing recipe, adding dried cranberries, pecans and bacon. It's so good that there's no need to limit it to just Thanksgiving.
It is time-consuming to make, so prepare it in stages for ease. Bake the cornbread the day before. Cook the chicken while you're chopping vegetables and toasting the pecans and bread. Boil down the chicken broth while the vegs cook. Or, for a much easier version -- use rotisserie chicken and canned chicken broth.
Chicken and Dressing
1 pan of cornbread, cooled and broken into pieces
10 crackers (whatever you have on hand from Saltines to Wheat Thins), crumbled
4 pieces of bread, toasted and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 whole chicken (or for simplicity’s sake – 1 rotisserie chicken)
5 slices bacon
2 onions, chopped
4-5 celery stalks, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons sage
1 teaspoon poultry season
½ cup dried cranberries, re-hydrated in warm water
½ cup pecans, toasted
1 egg, beaten
Chicken stock, as needed
In stockpot, bring water to a boil. Add a good amount of salt and the chicken. The water should cover the chicken. Depending on the size of the chicken, cook 45 minutes to an hour. Check until the breast meat is fully cooked but tender.
Remove chicken. Continue to let the water boil to reduce the chicken stock. When the chicken is cooled, remove meat from bones and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return chicken carcass to the boiling water to flavor it. (NOTE: If you use a rotisserie chicken, skip this step and use canned chicken broth.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In saucepan, cook bacon. Remove bacon and excess bacon fat -- you'll want about 1 1/2 tablespoons of bacon fat. Add onions and celery. Cook slowly for five to ten minutes until softened. Add thyme, sage and poultry seasoning.
In large bowl, add cornbread, crackers and toasted bread pieces. Add onion and celery mixture, crumbled bacon, toasted pecans, cranberries and cooked chicken. Taste and adjust seasonings. Blend ingredients well. (Sometimes it’s easier to just use your hands to combine the mix.) Add the beaten egg and incorporate.
Taste chicken broth. It should have a nice flavor by now. Add to dressing mixture one ladle at a time until mixed together but not soupy. Save remaining broth in refrigerator.
Place dressing in buttered Pyrex dish. Cover with foil and cook 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook 15 to 20 minutes until toasted on top. I enjoy eating my chicken and dressing with gravy but it's not necessary. When reheating, add more chicken stock to dressing to prevent it from drying out.