Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Pecans

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(serves 8-10)

13×9 pan of cornbread, cut into 1” pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

19 ounces hot or sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings

2 teaspoons Bourbon Smoked Paprika

2 onions, small dice

4 stalks celery, small dice

1 leek, white and pale green parts, chopped and rinsed

¼ cup apple cider vinegar, sherry or white wine

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 4 tablespoons, cut into small pieces

2 eggs

2 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed

1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1 fresh chili (such as fresno), deseeded and chopped fine (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

3 teaspoons Bourbon Smoked Salt

2 teaspoon Bourbon Smoked Pepper

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the cornbread out on 2 rimmed baking sheets and toast for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool. Butter a shallow 3 quart baking dish and a piece of aluminum foil. Set aside.

2) In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add sausage and smoked paprika. Cook, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned and no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the cornbread.

3) Add onions, celery and leeks to the skillet. Saute’, stirring often, until onions are browned and soft, 10-12 minutes. Scrape into the cornbread mixture. Return skillet to medium-high heat and pour in the apple cider vinegar, sherry or white wine to deglaze. Scrape up any brown bits and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Add the ½ cup of butter and allow to melt. Pour over cornbread mixture. Whisk eggs and 2 cups stock in a medium bowl and add to the cornbread, along with the pecans, chopped chili and thyme. Season with smoked salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. If stuffing seems dry, add more stock, ¼ cup at a time, until thoroughly moistened.

4) Pour stuffing into baking dish and dot with remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and cover tightly with foil, buttered side down. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and increase oven to 450 degrees. Bake until top is browned, about 20-25 minutes more. Serve warm.

Note: toasting cornbread and pecans and cooking sausage and vegetables can all be done a day ahead. Right before baking, toss everything together and add melted butter, eggs and stock. Proceed as directed.

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