Autumn brings its peculiar sensibilities, and by that I mean, the desire to start strangling yourself with a long piece of fabric (called a scarf) and putting a cinnamon/nutmeg combination into and on everything.
(As I write this, I’m sitting in a cafe, sipping on a seasonal hot brew of barley ginger tea with red dates.)
Thanksgiving overseas is quite an experience. First of all, there’s no guarantee you can track down key ingredients like, say, turkey. I’ve yet to find allspice here in Shanghai, although others have convinced me its around here somewhere.
Luckily, a select few of international teachers are determined to keep Thanksgiving as a tradition of gathering with friends and family over comfort food. With a online sign-up list, and the ability to deliver to your door practically anything in the world, we were able to create our very own Thanksgiving feast, complete with all the trimmings, here in Shanghai.
My offer was cornbread dressing, complicated by the facts that 1) There is a considerable lack of cornmeal around, 2) it’s the norm to NOT have an oven in your kitchen wall, and 3) I’m definitely not from the southern U.S. Well, I can solve the first by keeping my eyes open and buying cornbread mix when I stumbled across it a few weeks ago in the “foreign” market. I can solve the second by learning to bake basically anything in my rice cooker. I still haven’t been able to solve that last one, though.
So, yes. Here’s a recipe for cooking cornbread dressing in your rice cooker.
RICE COOKER CORNBREAD DRESSING
1 loaf of cornbread (8×8)
2 slices of wheat bread, toasted and cooled/dried
6 Saltine crackers
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 stick of butter
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 cup celery, diced
2 cups chicken stock
3 eggs, boiled
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. thyme
3 bay leaves/laurel
1. Prep, prep, and prep:
1.1 Prepare the cornbread according to directions (yes, I baked the cornbread in the rice cooker the day before), allow to completely cool and roughly cut into small pieces, reserving all the wonderful crumbs, and put it all in a giant mixing bowl.
1.2 Toast a couple slices of wheat bread, allowing them to completely cool, too. Tear them into small pieces and add to the bowl.
1.3 Pulverize the Saltines (try between a folded paper towel), adding them to the bowl.
1.4 Add the baking powder and toss all the dry ingredients together.
1.5 Boil 3 eggs, cool, peel, and slice.
1.6 Butter the bowl of the rice cooker. Place three bay leaves/laurel at the bottom.
2. When you’re ready:
2.1 Sauté the onions and celery in 1/2 stick of butter. I like the little browny bits on my onion, so it’s about 10 minutes of frying and tossing.
2.2 Add the remaining butter until it’s just melted.
3. Put it all together:
3.1 Add the buttery onion/celery mix to the dry ingredients. Fold it to mix together.
3.2 Continue to fold, adding the chicken stock gradually. You want it moist but not wet, and definitely not soupy. You might not even use the whole amount.
3.3 Add the sliced boiled eggs, beaten eggs, and seasonings. Fold together, aiming for a stiff but moist dough. More like a cookie dough than a cake batter.
4. Cook it!
4.1 Pour the dough into the greased rice cooker bowl, flattening softly.
4.2 Press the “蛋糕” button for “Cake” on the rice cooker. The total cooking time should be about 45 minutes, but may need up to one hour.
4.3 Check for doneness, but only when the cycle is complete. Don’t lose that heat! The top should appear firm and feel dense/not too springy when tapped. It may be wet– baking in the rice cooker keeps things quite moist!
5.1 Flip the bowl over your serving dish, carefully removing the bay leaves. I used a casserole dish to keep it warm until presenting it for serving.
You’ll love the way the dressing will be so crispy along the outside, and how moist the dressing will be. I might even suggest increasing the amount of chicken stock to use, as the dry stuff really absorbs the ingredients well.