Winter Squash is the bright sunny day of the storage crops, as far as I’m concerned, but even this delicious orange sugary goodness can get kind of old. When that happens, it’s time to dress it up.
Winter squash (acorn, delicata, butternut, whatever—anything you can scoop out to make into a shallow dish)
Olive oil, butter, or the cooking fat of your choice
1 medium onion
2-5 cloves of garlic, depending on the size of the cloves and your tastes
About one to two tablespoons of parsley, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary or some combination thereof—whatever you have on hand. Savory/hearty is the flavor you’re looking for.
Leftover rice, stale bread, or some other type of grain—about two cups per personal sized squash or four cups per large squash, more or less
½ to 1 cup grated sharp cheddar (or some other type of hard, flavorful cheese) per squash
A cup or so of stock of some sort—bean stock from cooked or canned beans, water from cooking vegetables, or packaged soup stock. This is especially important if you’re using stale bread.
- Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds, which your chickens might like to eat, if you have chickens. If you’re stuffing a large squash like Butternut you can choose to either leave it as large halves or make it into personal-sized quarters. Place your squash on a baking sheet and bake in a hot oven until soft.
- While squash is baking, chop the onions, garlic and any fresh herbs, and cut the bread into cubes if you’re using stale bread. You won’t have much time to chop later, because the stuffing has a tendency to stick to its pan if you’re not careful.
- Sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil, butter or the cooking fat of your choice. Add herbs, and then the breadcrumbs or grain. If the grain or bread is dry, you can add stock or more oil or fat to moisten. Stir with a spatula to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once it looks toasty, slightly crispy or just soft and hot, turn off the heat and stir in half the grated cheese.
- Once the squash is soft, remove it from the oven. If you used Butternuts and cut them in quarters, scoop out an indent in the “neck” pieces of the squash. You can take the squash you scooped out and hide it in the bottom of the seed-cavity pieces (which might be a little thin), or just put it aside to eat later. Leaving the squash on its baking pans, heap it full of sautéed grain or breadcrumbs.
- Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and return to the oven just long enough to melt, about ten minutes. Serve with style and remember again why it is that eating local and in season is the most delicious way to go.
I’ve made this twice, once with delicious caraway-rye crumbs, butternut squash and sharp cheddar cheese, and once with leftover brown rice, delicata squash and a hard goat’s cheese. Both times it was delicious, and I’m pretty confident that the combination of squash+grain+cheese can be adapted in a myriad of permutations while still making you look like you’re a five-star chef.