Fine, so, kicking and screaming, here I am – embracing the autumn season as best I can. You may still be forced to pry my flip-flops from my resistant, stubborn feet, but I will happily discuss with you the virtues of apples, pumpkins, squash, and various other tidings of cuisine that speaks of cooler temperatures. If I’m going to be forced to snuggle up in a blankie on a Sunday afternoon, I’m taking my cooking skills with me. So there.
My favorite guy, my favorite boy dog, my favorite girl dog, and I all spent the afternoon together in the backyard preparing the soil for next season’s planting in the spring. (Our garden is gonna be so, so awesome…..) An unusually summer-like day, yes, for early October, but there’s really no fooling when that autumn smell is just IN THE AIR. It had to be a harvest dinner…..it just had to be.
Fresh Direct delivered me two lovely acorn squashes, which I decided immediately were the perfect vessels for a deep, rich, yummy autumn stuffing. I had 2 leftover merguez sausages in the freezer from the farmer’s market, and, well, the rest is food-nerd history. I completely free-styled this recipe in my kitchen tonight, so please forgive me as I am transcribing it as best I can from memory. If you have any questions, I’m happy to help!
2 acorn squash
1 large shallot, diced fine
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
2 links of merguez sausage, meat removed from casings and reserved
1/4 cup red wine (something you are willing to drink, please!)
1 8 oz. package white button mushrooms, peeled, stemmed, and diced fine
1 cup wild rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried ginger
2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1/4 cup pine nuts (Pignoli nuts), toasted in a dry pan until golden brown and fragrant
1 tbsp. chopped rosemary
2 tbsp. chopped Parsley
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. First, bring a saucepan full of water to a boil over high heat for the wild rice.
2. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Rinse the acorn squashes well and cut of just enough of the bottoms of the squashes so they can stand up on their own on a flat surface. Slice off the tops of each squash about 1″ down from the top, and scoop out all of the flesh and seeds with a spoon or melon baller. Sprinkle the inside cavities with kosher salt and let sit upside-down on a rack for about 30 minutes to degorge, or drain off some of their water.
3. Rinse the mushrooms quickly under cold water in a colander just until the surface dirt is removed. Remove the stems and peel away the outer layers of skin with a paring knife, reserving trimmings and peelings in a bowl.
4. When the rice water is starting to boil, add a generous handful of kosher salt, some parsley stems, the mushroom stems and peelings, the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and ginger. Add the wild rice, and allow to bubble for a good 45 minutes, or until rice grains explode and are tender.
5. As soon as rice has been left to cook on it’s own, add some freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil to the cavities of the acorn squash that have been degorging, and place on a baking sheet, cavity openings up. Place in preheated oven and let roast for about 20-30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the stuffing ingredients.
6. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add enough extra virgin olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the shallots and cook until fragrant and translucent, but not browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add the merguez sausage and minced garlic, and keep breaking apart the meat until there are small chunks and all surfaces begin to develop a golden-brown color. Bits of caramelization should begin to occur on the bottom of the pan, but they should not burn.
7. Remove meat, shallots, and garlic to a bowl, reserving pan with all the cooking gunk on it. Return to heat, and add the wine while scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden or rubber spatula. Cook until the wine reduces by about 1/2, and add the diced mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until nicely sautéed and liquid is almost gone, about 5 more minutes. Add to the bowl of reserved meat and shallots.
8. When the wild rice is done, drain off the liquid and remove the parsley stems, cinnamon stick, and mushroom trimmings. Add rice to meat, shallot, and mushroom mixture, along with the toasted pine nuts, bread crumbs, and chopped rosemary and parsley.
9. Without turning off oven, remove the squash to the stovetop. Pack the cavities full of the stuffing mixture tightly, and then top with a generous grating of parmigiano-reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil. Place the squash back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the tops are golden-brown and stuffing is heated through.
10. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, and serve. Each spoonful of the stuffing should include a scraping-up of the squash flesh. Trust me on this one.
Yield: 2 stuffed acorn squashes and 2 stuffed peoplePrinter Friendly