This year for Christmas dinner, my extended family agreed to humor the vegetarians and allow me to make vegetarian dressing to go with their turkey. This recipe is based on my mother-in-law’s cornbread dressing recipe with a few alterations like leaving out the chicken or turkey, and leaving out the cream of celery soup, which we noticed often contains chicken stock. If you can find vegetarian cream of celery soup, go for it. If not, you can make your own, like I did. As usual, this recipe will be a little vague about amounts, since I don’t measure. That may make it easier to adapt to the number of people you need to feed!
Cornbread (I made a recipe and a half)
1 bag of Breadcrumbs (or for a true Southern version, use leftover biscuits)
4-6 cans of vegetable broth (or make your own with onion and garlic skins, celery tops, and any vegetable stalks or ends, plus salt)
Rubbed sage, other spices like marjoram, thyme, celery seed, and black pepper to taste.
Make a recipe or two of cornbread in advance. Crumble in a large bowl, and add breadcrumbs or crumbled biscuits.
To make cream of celery soup substitute:
Saute a little onion, garlic, and celery (I used 4 stalks) in some olive oil or butter
Add 1/4 cup or so of flour and mix in the oil until flour is absorbed
Add 16 oz (or so) of vegetable stock to make a white sauce with the celery
If you like a creamier taste, you could use milk for the white sauce, but I had extra home-made vegetable stock on hand, so I used it.
To breadcrumbs and cornbread, add cream of celery soup (or canned condensed vegetarian cream of celery soup — cream of mushroom would probably also work fine, but then you’d need to add celery or celery seed to your dressing for flavor, and you’d have mushroom bits in your dressing.)
Add 4-6 cans of vegetarian vegetable broth (or the equivalent of home-made broth). The dressing should be fairly wet, almost soupy. My mother couldn’t believe how much stock I added; my wife thought it wasn’t wet enough, so I added one more than I had planned, but she still said her mother’s was soupier. I left it at 4 cans (but had used more than one can for the celery soup, so you’d need extra if you used canned).
Add spices and salt to taste — we generally use a lot of sage. Poultry seasoning is a good mix for dressing, esp. if you don’t have sage, since that’s a main ingredient.
The dressing turned out perfect for my Iowa family. It was drier than my mother-in-law’s, so my wife was right, but I was happy with the consistency. We had plenty for Christmas dinner (2 pans — one large, one medium) and plenty of leftovers for another dinner. Use your own judgement about how wet to make the dressing, but err on the side of wetter, rather than drier. You’ll be surprised how much liquid the dressing soaks up when cooked.
Bake (with or without a turkey, depending on who’s eating with you) for an hour or more at 350. I baked covered until the last 15 minutes or so. A few complications getting the turkey browned and ready to go meant the dressing stayed in the oven a little longer than planned, but it turned out fine.
I didn’t do anything with the turkey or the gravy, obviously, but did make garlic mashed potatoes, cranberries, and squash. It was a great dinner and more than enough to be our main meal (really our only real meal after breakfast, but snacks and rice pudding that my brother-in-law, Rudy, made were more than sufficient).