Don’t shy away from using fennel—it lends a mild flavor and works well with the apples and sausage, giving this dressing a distinctive taste. Use your own corn bread recipe or a boxed mix. Make certain not to use anything too sweet, as this recipe is meant to be savory.
1 9"x13" pan corn bread 16 ounces bulk pork sausage 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, halved, cored, and chopped fine 2 ribs celery, chopped 1 onion, chopped 2 tablespoons sage 1 tablespoon thyme 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (Golden Delicious apples also work well.) 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1 ½ to 2 cups turkey or chicken broth, divided
Break cornbread into chunks, and spread on a baking sheet. You should have about 15 cups. Let it dry out overnight uncovered. Place in a large mixing bowl.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook sausage, breaking into small pieces until browned, about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove sausage from skillet and place on paper towel to drain.
Add butter to any remaining fat in skillet, then add fennel, celery, and onion, stirring occasionally until just softened, scraping up any brown bits of sausage. Add sage, thyme, salt, and pepper, stir and cook for 1 minute more. Add fennel mixture along with sausage to bowl with corn bread. Add chopped apple.
Add beaten eggs, along with 1 cup turkey broth, tossing gently, careful not to crumble corn bread. Add additional broth, a little at a time, as needed to evenly moisten. You want the mixture to be moist but not wet. Cover tightly and refrigerate to let flavors blend, about 1 hour. This can be made 24 hours in advance. (If made ahead, let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before cooking.)
To bake, add additional turkey stock if needed to moisten. Gently pour into a buttered 9"x13" baking dish. Bake covered at 400°F for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, until golden brown.