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Stuffed Acorn Squash
When I was a kid, my favorite Thanksgiving food was stuffing! My family makes a sage stuffing recipe. I thought it was heaven on earth. Probably because I had no idea other types of stuffing existed! When I discovered the wonders of oyster stuffing and sausage-apple stuffing, my eyes were opened to the world of options! My mom and extended family really like their staples. They rarely venture far from them. They make this stuffing with bread that I can only describe as the most basic white sandwich bread you can buy. Friends, what happens to basic white sandwich bread when it gets even a tiny bit wet? It turns to gummy mush right?? As a kid this didn’t bug me, but as an adult, texture is everything! The flavors aren’t bad and when made with day-old baguette the texture is great! But that sage stuffing has been ruined for me. One year my mom made it with whole-wheat sandwich bread. Nope. While I’m a fan of whole-wheat bread in almost all things, stuffing and French onion soup are notable exceptions.
But thank goodness, there is a whole other world of stuffing flavor combos! Like this cornbread stuffing made with crimini mushrooms and poblano peppers! Stuffed inside acorn squash and roasted to make the perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving side!! (If you don’t need it to be veg, you could always add some cooked, crumbled Italian sausage!
I have a very serious cornbread problem. I love it with soup or chili, on its own, with honey, under gravy (instead of biscuits), and most definitely in stuffing! Stuff inside of roasted squash! Its beautiful, festive, and delicious!
As much as Thanksgiving is about seeing family and friends, it’s also about food traditions! I want to know about your family’s relationship with stuffing! Was there a go-to recipe? Inside the bird or not?
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 c. cornmeal
- 6 tbsp. all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/8 tsp. sea salt
- 3/4 c. milk of your choice (I used almond milk)
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
- 2 c. crimini mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 small or 1 large poblano peppers
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 3 tbsp. fresh sage, minced and divided
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided, plus more
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper, divided, plus more
- 3 tbsp. dry white wine
- 2 acorn squash, halved with guts and seeds removed
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 c. vegetable broth, plus more
- Fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tbsp. balsamic reduction*
- Toasted pecans
To make cornbread: Preheat oven to 425. Grease a loaf pan with butter and set aside. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking, powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Create a well in the center of dry ingredients and whisk in egg and melted butter. Add milk and whisk just until combined. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely. Cover and store at room temperature. Can be make 1 day ahead.
To make the stuffing: melt 1 tbsp. butter in large wide frying pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, 1 tbsp. chopped sage leaves, 1/8 tsp. black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Give it a stir. Then cover pan until mushrooms have softened. Remove lid and add 1 tbsp. white wine. Continue to cook uncovered until most but not all of the liquid has evaporated. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to a bowl. In same frying pan, add additional tbsp. butter, celery, onion, and poblano peppers. Add 2 tbsp. fresh sage, sprig of thyme, remaining black pepper, and additional tsp. salt. Stir then cover and cook until vegetables begin to soften slightly (about 1-2 minutes). Remove lid and add additional 2 tbsp. white wine. Continue to cook until no more liquid pools at the bottom of the pan. Remove thyme sprig and discard. Transfer cooked vegetables to the same bowl as mushrooms.
Crumble the cornbread into bread crumbs in this same bowl. Toss to combine. Melt remaining 3 tbsp. butter in the same frying pan (or microwave if you prefer). Drizzle melted butter into cornbread mixture. Add a pinch more salt and pepper. And use a fork to mix. Add 2 tbsp. vegetable broth, and stir with a fork. We want the mixture to be moistened but not mushy. Drizzle additional vegetable broth 1 tbsp. at a time as needed until desired texture is achieved.
Drizzle the olive oil over each of the 4 acorn squash halves and sprinkle each with a generous pinch of salt. Scoop a heaping amount of cornbread stuffing into each. They should be generously mounded and overflowing! Can be assembled and refrigerated for up to 4 hours ahead.
Add 1-2 tbsp. vegetable broth to the bottom of a dutch oven. Transfer each squash to a dutch oven. Cover and bake for 30 minutes in oven preheated to 375. Remove lid and roast for additional 5-10 minutes until top is golden and squash is very tender.
Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.
To serve, drizzle with balsamic reduction and garnish with fresh thyme and toasted pecans.
*To make balsamic reduction: add 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar to a small sauce pan, cook uncovered over medium heat until reduced by half. Immediately transfer to heatproof bowl to cool.