Looking for a delicious vegetarian dish to serve as the entree at your next special meal? Wait, scratch that. Forget I said “vegetarian” because I should have just said “delicious.” It doesn’t even matter that it’s meat-free, because it’s so good that all you carnivores will love it too. I made this on Christmas to accompany my sister’s beautiful holiday meal and it was so good that I can’t wait to make it again.
It was inspired by a dish I had a few weeks back at James Beard Award Winning Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s Greenhouse Tavern in downtown Cleveland. We went there for a special dinner before we watched the girls dance in the Nutcracker. I ordered the Acorn Squash Confit. I’m used to eating sub-par vegetarian meals when I go out; usually pasta with a bunch of bland sautéed vegetables on top. Sawyer’s Squash blew my mind. It was such a treat to be served a vegetarian dish that was not an after thought. Even my husband, who is not a vegetarian ordered it and he was raving just as much if not more than I was. So, when I told my sister I would make an entree to add to the Christmas table, Acorn Squash was the first thing that came to my mind. Of course, I couldn’t match the genius of The Greenhouse Tavern’s masterpiece, but I’d put my own spin on it. Here’s what I came up with.
Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing
Here’s what you’ll need.
4 acorn squash
1 stick butter
4 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
Salt & Pepper
3 cups cooked wild rice (I used a brown rice, wild rice combo)
1 shallot, finely diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
2 Tbsp. fresh Thyme
4 cups good crusty bread, cubed
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Begin by washing the squash. Then slice them in half lengthwise and clean out the seeds using a spoon. Place all the squash flesh side up in one or two baking dishes.
Next, melt half of the butter (4 tbsp.) and combine with the maple syrup. Stir and brush it over top of the flesh of the squash. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Place in the oven to roast for 45 to 60 minutes until the flesh begins to brown and is fork tender. Set aside.
While the squash is roasting, prepare the stuffing. If you haven’t already, prepare the rice according to package directions. Set aside. In a large skillet, melt the remaining butter (4 Tbsp.). Add the diced shallot and the celery. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add in thyme and cook a minute or two longer. Remove from heat. Add in bread cubes, rice, cranberries and pecans. Stir well. Add seasoning to taste. (Note: You can make this recipe gluten free by leaving out the bread. I did this for one of the guests at our Christmas dinner and it worked out perfectly.)
Divide stuffing evenly among all the squash. If you have some left over put it in a small casserole dish to toast in the oven and to serve on the side. Place all the stuffed squash back in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Serve warm. And remember, it’s ok to eat the skin of the squash. It’s full of vitamins and minerals and it tastes really good too.
I hope you’ll enjoy this dish as much as we did. It is “fancy” enough to be the star of the plate at a dinner party or holiday meal or perfect as a side dish too.