It's squash time of the year! Acorn squash is one of my favorite varieties both for its flavor and because it's the perfect size to stuff for a meal. I posted a stuffed squash recipe last fall that included rice, spicy sausage, parmesan, and mushrooms. If you're interested in that recipe, click here or check the archives at left for September, 2011.
I thought that this fall I'd post a variation that's more fruity with fresh apples, dried cranberries, pecans, couscous and fontina cheese in addition to bacon. This is my own ingredient combination. I initially thought about adding Brie cheese because it has a mild flavor that I thought would complement the apples, bacon and pecans. The problem with Brie is that it's so soft that I figured it would melt away completely as the squash bakes. My solution was to substitute fontina, which is also mild but firmer than Brie. Ask the person at the cheese counter for a mild fontina since they can range from very mild to quite a bit stronger in flavor. You can always change up other ingredients by adding raisins or currants rather than the cranberries, or by substituting walnuts or pine nuts for the pecans.
The basic concept is to cook the squash first because it takes a long time to get tender, then you stuff the squash and bake some more until the squash is very tender and the filling is hot. Pretty easy. All the stuffing prep can easily be done while the squash cooks the first time. If you're pressed for time, prepare everything in advance and refrigerate the stuffed squash, then just bake until everything is hot again.
* * click here for a printable recipe * *
Apple, Bacon and Fontina Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 small acorn squash
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ cup couscous
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
1 firm apple, cored and chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fontina cut in small cubes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a thin slice off each end of the squash, then cut in half crosswise. Carefully scoop out seeds and fibers. Line a baking dish with parchment. Place squash halves in the baking dish and rub the cut surfaces and the interior of each with 1 tablespoon butter. Place a small amount of butter in the bottom of each half. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400d for 60 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, cook the couscous according to directions and set aside to cool. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter, then sauté the onion and celery for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped apples and sauté for two more minutes. In a large bowl, combine the couscous, apple mixture, bacon and pecans. When completely cool, add the fontina and parsley and mix thoroughly. At the end of 60 minutes, remove the squash halves from the oven and fill each until mounded.
If you have stuffing left over, it makes a great lunch the next day. Cover the baking dish with foil. (At this point the squash halves can be refrigerated for baking later. If refrigerated, add 10 minutes or so to the baking time.) Place the squash halves back in the oven for an additional 30 minutes, until the filling is hot. Uncover and serve immediately.