Saturday, February 6, 2016

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Pears, Walnuts, Bacon and Rice

This can be a nice side dish or a great main course, depending on how you make them and the size of your squash. I regularly prepare acorn squash, so I often have variations on a theme. As always, use what you have in the house as much as possible, instead of buying specialty items just to make a dish.

Julian's Main Dish Stuffed Acorn Squash
Since I have a large acorn squash on hand, and I have some left over bacon and previously cooked rice, I'm going to make a main dish out of these key ingredients for this meal. This means the dinner will be pretty simple to make, but you could of course make the rice fresh if you prefer. I rarely do this and think rice as a stuffing works best when it's leftover. If you have apples instead of pears, use those. If you are serving these as a side dish, omit the sausage for a combination vegetable and starch side. I also have some left over Brussels sprouts available, so I've sliced those roughly and will include instead of the celery.

Ingredients (2 portions)
1 acorn squash
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
pinch of salt and pepper for each half
1 teaspoon nutmeg

For the Stuffing
1/2 pound sage sausage
      (or substitute Italian sausage or bacon)
1 small onion, chopped
celery or another green vegetable
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup prepared rice
        (yellow or wild rice preferred)
2 teaspoons vinegar, apple cider or red wine
3 teaspoons maple syrup
1 pear, cored and diced

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Remove the stem, slice the squash in half and remove the seeds. Make sure the squash will sit flat upright for serving. If not, then shave a bit of the shall to form a stable base.  Rub the squash interior flesh with the vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. In a baking dish or foil lined cooked sheet with sides, add about 1/2 inch of water. Place the squash in the dish, face down so only the outer skin is showing. Roast for one hour.

In the baking dish with water ready for roasting.
While the squash is roasting prepare the stuffing. Saute the bacon/sausage in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until nearly done. Add the onion and celery and stir together and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the vegetables softens. If using another cooked vegetable from a prior dinner or even a frozen cooked vegetable, add those near the end so as not to overcook them. Add the walnuts, a little bit of salt and pepper (depending on how spicy your sausage is), and the prepared rice. Stir to combine and add the vinegar and maple syrup. Cook stirring regularly for 3-5 minutes until all are warmed through and well combined. Remove from heat and stir in the pears, and then set aside until the squash is ready.

Ready for Stuffing into the Acorn Squash
Remove squash from the oven and drain the liquid from the roasting pan. Turn the squash upright. The flesh should be tender when tested with fork. Add the stuffing and return to the oven to roast an additional 15-20 minutes, until well heated. Serve hot.

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