Serves 10 to 12
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 10-by-15-inch baking dish or two 9-inch square baking dishes with 1 1/2 teaspoons butter.
Combine cornbread and white bread with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, chicken stock, eggs, and 1 tablespoon Essence in a large bowl and stir to mix, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet or medium pot over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons butter and reduce heat to medium-high. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, remaining 2 teaspoons Essence, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and stir to mix. Cook vegetables, stirring occasionally, until very soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add to cornbread mixture. Stir to mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove from oven. Serve warm.