Stuffed Acorn Squash

IMG_1463After a week of above average temperatures, more than two weeks without a drop of rain, and enduring the cheesy grins and cheers from the morning weather folks, fall weather has finally returned. Yes, those same grinning people now have furrowed brows and pouty faces as they announce highs in the upper 50s, but — frankly — they’ve had their fun. I much prefer summer weather in the summer, thank you! For autumn, and those excursions to go view the maples and other trees in full blaze, you need that chill in the air — gives you an excuse to break out the warmer clothes. And, for men, it brings that often untapped opportunity to accessorize your wardrobe with a hat! Admittedly, I do enjoy the opportunity to hide my wild, untamed hair under the guise of a gentlemanly hat every once in a while. Perusing the farmer’s market, recently, (wearing my hat), I decided that James and I should revisit a favorite fall recipe since the season had arrived.

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The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks (Simply In Season) and we first tried it about two years ago. I was not incredibly pleased with the outcome, initially. The squash refused to soften even though I’d cooked it according to the recipe’s instructions, and the filling remained a very separate entity, taste-wise, from the squash. We ended up eating the filling and pretty well discarding the acorn squash “cups” since they were still quite hard and tasteless.

IMG_1431Never one to give up on a good idea, I tried the recipe again the following year. Rather than following the recipe instructions (dry roasting the squash completely uncovered in a hot oven), I decided to apply my own method for cooking pumpkin for purée. I cleaned the squashes as usual and placed them cut-side up in a large baking pan. But — instead of putting them directly into the oven — I poured about 1/2-inch of water into the pan (about 2 cups in a 13×9 baking dish). Then, I covered the pan tightly with foil so that it would trap steam. I then baked them for the prescribed time in the recipe. Voila! Soft squash! Uh oh… too soft!

So, on the second attempt, the squash sauna treatment made the squash too mushy. Filling it with the stuffing certainly dressed it up, of IMG_1429course, but there was still that thick layer of nearly tasteless, mushy squash beneath the very flavorful filling! Back to the drawing board.

This year, I was determined to make this recipe live up to our autumnal dinner expectations. I decided to, again, steam the squashes in the oven, but only until they were just beginning to soften. Next, to marry the squash and the filling, I decide to remove some squash from each squash half and mix the pulp into the filling. I then topped each filled squash half with a thin layer of grated parmesan cheese. Success! There was still a thin layer of unflavored squash lining each serving, but it was certainly more pleasant to eat with the new and improved filling combining the flavors.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Adapted from Simply In Season
Serves 4

    2 large acorn squash
    3-4 slices whole wheat bread, cubed (enough to make 2 cups cubed)
    1/2 – 3/4 pound sausage (Italian, breakfast, etc.)
    1 large onion, diced
    1 large tart cooking apple, diced (eg. fuji, jonagold, or granny smith)
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
    1/4 cup golden raisins
    1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
    1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
    1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

    To prepare squash, preheat oven to 350-degrees. Cut each squash into halves, lengthwise. Using a large spoon or melon baller, remove the seeds and strings from each half. Place squash halves cut-side up in a 13×9 baking dish; pour 1/2-inch of water into the bottom of the dish. Cover the baking dish with foil, sealing tightly to lock in steam. Place into preheated oven and bake 40-60 minutes; until flesh of squash is tender but not mushy.

    Meanwhile, place bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool.

    Brown and crumble sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When sausage is nearly done, add the diced onion and apple; sauté 5-7 minutes until tender and slightly browned. Remove from heat, stir in toasted bread cubes, walnuts, raisins, dried herbs, and nutmeg; mix well.

    When squash has cooked sufficiently, remove from oven, uncover, and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Remove cooked squash from each squash half, leaving about 1/4-inch lining in each half. Mash and stir the removed squash into the sausage mixture. Divide the filling among the squash halves. Top each filled squash half with 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for an additional 25-30 minutes until cheese has melted.

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All of our favorite autumn entrées combine interesting flavors of both sweet and savory. This recipe is no exception — the tart apples and sweet raisins combined with the savory sausage and heady herbs make for a taste sensation that’s not unlike the visual sensation of seeing the trees bursting into unearthly shades of gold, red, orange, and violet; impossible to take in all at once. If you are afraid that tart apples and sausage will simply not work together, I assure you that sautéeing IMG_1464them together with onion does a lot to meld the two into harmony.

To round out such a meal, I recommend a light salad, perhaps a glass of fruit wine (our favorite is Lynfred Winery’s Pear Wine), and a hot apple crisp with the tiniest scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. Sampling all these flavors and mingling them in one evening, you’ll be happy to put on a sweater and hat, and go walk off dinner, enjoying autumn rather than sulking over the fact that summer has passed. Autumn is one of those few opportunities in life to view inevitability as a truly beautiful thing. Winter will come soon enough. Autumn is here, now. Savor it!

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~ by Jason on October 19, 2010.

One Response to “Stuffed Acorn Squash”

  1. I just made stuffed acorn squash on Thursday. Stuffed with orzo and cheddar. Super yummy!

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