Three Sisters Cornbread Dressing
The ingenious “Three Sisters” growing system, developed centuries ago by Indigenous communities, gets its name from the way corn, beans and squash support each other like sisters when they’re grown together. The beans add natural nitrogen fertilizer to the soil, the squash acts as a cover crop to prevent weeds, and the corn stalks supply a trellis for the beans to climb. Inspired by this ancient, regenerative system, the Patagonia café in Ventura created this cornbread dressing recipe.
Make-ahead: You can make this dressing up through Step 11 a day or two ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until ready to bake. If you’re baking it cold, add another 10 minutes to the covered baking time.
- 2 tbsp. salted butter, melted
- 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. each baking soda and salt
- ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt, at room temperature
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tbsp. honey, such as Patagonia Provisions Organic Moloka’i Honey
- 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
- 1½ cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
- ½ medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¾-in. dice (about 2 ½ cups)
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ lb. ground pork (85% lean—you need some fat)
- ¼ cup Patagonia Provisions Taco Seasoning
- 1 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 stalks celery, diced small
- 1 (15 oz.) can white beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ bunch parsley, chopped (plus extra for topping if you like)
Putting It All Together
- Make the cornbread: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-in. square baking pan with the butter (it’s fine if extra butter pools in the bottom—it will help the cornbread form a crust).
- In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients: yogurt, milk, and honey. Stir in jalapeño and corn kernels.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined (overmixing will make the cornbread tough). The batter will immediately puff up as the baking powder and soda start to leaven the mix. Quickly pour the batter into the buttered pan.
- Bake until evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and dry, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely.
- Make the dressing: Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss squash with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven until just tender, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F.
- While squash is roasting, mix pork, taco seasoning and vinegar in a bowl.
- Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and add the seasoned pork. Break into 1-in. pieces with a spoon or spatula and cook until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Put meat in a bowl.
- Add onion and celery to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Cut cooled cornbread into roughly 1-in. chunks and butter a 2-qt. baking dish.
- In a large bowl, mix cornbread with the pork, onion and celery, roasted squash, white beans and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon dressing into buttered baking dish and bake 30 minutes, covered with foil, to heat through and let flavors blend. Remove foil, increase heat to 375° F, and bake another 10 minutes to crisp up the top.