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Who else thinks stuffing is the best part of Thanksgiving? One of my fondest food memories is the wonderful aroma of onions and celery cooking in butter as mom began preparing the turkey in the morning of and, hours later, our tummies rumbling as the smell of sage and poultry seasoning magically drifted into every corner of our hilltop house as we waited impatiently for the bronzed bird to make it from oven to table. Now, as master of my own kitchen, I can make stuffing any time I want. Usually, the craving doesn’t hit until fall is in the air and I satisfy it with the delicious bread crumb and dried fruit stuffed Pork Chops that are a family favorite or variations on stuffed Portobello mushrooms.
But why should stuffing be just for dinner if you love it so much? I’ve salivated over stuffing muffins viewed around the blogosphere and on Pinterest and it’s been on my list of things to try for awhile now. The final push came last week when I tried a Blueberry Stuffin’ Muffin at the Very Blueberry pre-Thanksgiving feast at Erika’s house. I wanted to transform my all-time favorite Cornbread stuffing into a muffin that you could eat at any meal – breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.
Sweet or tart apples in cornbread stuffing are a perfect match – even better than sausage and cornbread stuffing which can be a little heavy in my opinion – and it so happened that I had the perfect apples adorning my kitchen counter. I’ve been noshing on these sweet Green Dragon apples from Melissa’s Produce for the past two weeks and decided it was high time that I actually cooked something with them before they all disappeared!
They look very much like Golden Delicious apples don’t they? And there’s a good reason for that – Green Dragon Apples are a hybrid cross between a Japanese Orin and a Golden Delicious. These apples originated in Japan around 1920 and were named after the Chinese symbol for royalty. When College Girl was young her favorite apple was the Golden Delicious, because she wasn’t keen about biting into apples, she liked Golden Delicious because the skin was thin and tender and the apple not as hard as other common varieties. I wish she were home to taste these Golden Dragons – she would love the unique pineapple-pear sweetness.
She would also be happy to find one of these muffins in her lunch box because the love-of-stuffing gene seems to run in the family
- 7 cups ¾ inch cubes Cornbread*
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 oz. diced pancetta
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 large crisp green apple, cored and chopped*
- ½ cup pecan pieces
- 1 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt (omit for low sodium)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
- Make cornbread (for this heart healthy, low sodium version I used my cornbread recipe). You may use store bought cornbread or your favorite recipe.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place cornbread cubes on two rimmed baking sheets in a single layer and dry in the oven for about 10 minutes while oven is heating. Remove from oven. Allow to cool, then put in a large mixing bowl.
- Melt 2 Tb. butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until brown. Then add the onions and cook to soften—2-3 minutes. Add the apples and soften another 3-5 minutes. Finally add the herbs and pecans. Toss and remove from heat. Add salt and pepper; stir to blend. Add vegetable mixture to bread and toss.
- Whisk the eggs and broth together and pour over the bread mixture. Toss and let it stand 5 minutes.
- Generously butter twelve nonstick muffin cups. Using your hands, form the mixture into balls and put into muffin pan.
- Bake muffins until golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Using a small knife, loosen muffins and gently remove from pan.
Muffins can be made 1 day ahead and rewarmed (uncovered) in a microwave in 30-second intervals or covered loosely with foil and reheated in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes.
Serve these muffins as a little snack to keep the hungry masses happy until the big meal, as a side dressing or in place of dinner rolls – I bet there will be a few who won’t be able to wait!
Since these muffins aren’t going to be stuffed into the turkey, they should really be called “Dressin’ Apple Muffins”, but most people use the term “stuffing” to refer to both. In fact, with the addition of a little more low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, this recipe could be used as your stuffing/dressing instead of muffins, if you prefer.
Look for Green Dragon apples in markets with a wide variety of produce or order directly from Melissa’s Produce.
Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this post but I did enjoy a box of Green Dragon Apples from Melissa’s Produce. Any opinions expressed are my own.