Cornbread-Herb Dressing with Dried Tomatoes and Pancetta

Grand Prize Winner from Sunset Magazine’s Turkey Dressing Contest.
Rita Ann Wilkins, La Verne, CA

Prep and cook time: about 1 ¾ hours
Makes: About 14-16 cups

8 cups ½-inch cubes day-old cornbread
½ pound thin-sliced pancetta, chopped (you may substitute prosciutto or bacon)
About 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions (3/4 lb. Total) peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups finely chopped celery
1 jar (about 7 oz. Steamed chestnuts or 1 1/3 cups cooked and peeled, or water-packed canned or vacuum-packed chestnuts, coarsely chopped.
1 cup drained oil-packed dried tomatoes, chopped
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
½ cup (1/4 lb.) melted unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ to 2 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth

In a 350 F oven, bake cornbread cubes in a 12- by 17-inch roasting pan until edges begin to brown, stirring occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, over medium-high heat, stir pancetta until browned, about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to towels to drain. Pour out fat and measure; add enough olive oil to make ¼ cup total and return to the frying pan. Place pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and stir often until limp, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and celery; stir often until celery is limp, 5 to 7 minutes.

To cornbread in roasting pan, add pancetta, onion mixture, chestnuts, tomatoes, parsley, sage, basil, rosemary and butter. Mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste. Mix in broth, ½ cup at a time, until dressing is evenly moistened (for a crumbly dressing, use minimum amount). Spoon into a shallow 3-quart casserole and over tightly. (If making up to one day ahead, chill).

Bake in a 350 F oven until hot (at least 150 F in center), 35 to 40 minutes (50 to 65 if chilled). For a crusty top, uncover the last 20 to 25 minutes.