Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sausage and Leek Stuffed Acorn Squash

A beautiful fall dish offering some of our favorite flavors to sink our fork into on a cold winter evening.
You can use any meat or veggie you like, though I have to say I'm partial to the mild Italian sausage and light spices I mixed with fluffy homemade bread crumbs.

A bag of small dice plain stuffing cubes works fine too. Just stick the amount you need into a large plastic storage bag and give a few whacks with a heavy pan or rolling pin.  You don't want real fine bread crumbs like the kind sold in stores, but not real big chunks either.  Unless you like it chunky, then go ahead. :)

Leeks! Like an overgrown green onion, trim off ends, slice in half, then slice into half moons. 

Leeks! Right now they're very cheap and so yummy. They're a nice change to add to dishes instead of the same old (and expensive sometimes!) white onion.
I know some say just give them a rinse in water, but eh..I slice them first, then let them sit in a big bowl of water while I assemble other things, just to be sure all the dirt and grit is out. Make sure to dry them a bit, a salad spinner works great, before adding them.

Okay, before I go any further, I suppose I better get to the recipe!

3 acorn squash
1 lb mild Italian bulk sausage, browned, but not completely cooked through
1 leek, sliced and cleaned
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup reserved pan drippings from sausage
2 teaspoons grated white onion
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your palms
1 fat clove, or two small, of fresh garlic, grated
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided
3 cups large bread crumbs or slightly crushed small cubed plain bread stuffing
3/4 cup beef broth

Nutmeg butter for topping:
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine with
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350
With a very sharp knife, slice each squash in half width-wise. Scoop out seeds and strings. Save seeds for making salted seed snacks or granola, if you like.  Trim the the tops and a bit of the bottom off each half so they sit without wobbling everywhere. 
Try to get them even, but they don't have to be perfect. Just cook the bigger ones a bit longer. I accidentally trimmed a little too much off a couple bottoms, I just put a bit of folded foil under them, so the stuffing wouldn't fall out when transferring them to a plate.

Foil a baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray. Spray the acorns with spray oil too, and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. With a fork, prick each half very well.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, depending on your squash and how thick it is. Cook them until fork tender, but not squishy soft.

In the meantime, brown the Italian sausage, but don't cook all the way. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Pour out all but 1/4 cup of the pan drippings. If your sausage is lean, add enough butter to make about 1/4 cup of drippings and butter.
Over medium-low heat, add celery, leeks, sage, thyme and a pinch of kosher salt and pepper. Stir occassionally until celery begins to soften. Grate onion and garlic down into the pan and stir.
Also add breadcrumbs and cook for a minute or so until the bread begins to toast, then add sausage back to pan, and stir in up to 3/4 cup of broth, more if needed, but not too much. Pour in enough broth to soften bread crumbs, but not so much as to make it soggy.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Remove from heat and let cool a bit while you melt 1/4 cup butter or margarine with 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg.  If using unsalted butter, add just a wee pinch of salt.

When squash are soften, remove from oven.
To the stuffing, add half of the parmesan.

Fill all the acorn squash halve and top with remaining parmesan and drizzle nutmeg butter over all.
Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees, for about 10-15 minutes, or until hot and tops are crusty.
Serve! :)

I can't seem to upload any pics to blogger at this time. I'll try to add more of the stuffed acorn squash later.

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