Years ago, there used to be a pub in Chicago called Buddy’s that served the most amazing acorn squash stuffed with cornbread dressing. It was quite the unicorn at the time, one of those rare occasions of finding a vegetarian entree that didn’t seem like an afterthought. I’ve always wanted to recreate the essence of that dish, and after coming back from a local farmer’s market with way too much winter squash I figured it was now or never. While this recipe would be great after a big holiday meal when there is leftover stuffing, this time around I opted for boxed stuffing mix as the base for the filling. I’m generally not a fan of processed foods, but a quick and simple stuffing mix seemed like a no brainer to execute this idea in a reasonable amount of time. To bulk it up, I added lean ground chicken, but any ground meat would work. If taking a vegetarian or vegan approach, chopped mushrooms or faux-meat crumbles would be delicious alternatives. As for the winter squash, I recommend delicata or acorn, as they have large cavities suitable for filling, and the skin is potentially edible once it’s been cooked long enough. This recipe makes enough to fill 2-3 halved delicata squashes or probably 2 large halved acorn squashes. I only had 2 delicata when I tested the recipe, but the leftover filling made a tasty appetizer while everything baked. Now that you have the framework, consider playing with different veggies, spices, or even nuts to switch up the flavors and textures. And most of all, enjoy!
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
1 garlic clove, chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey (or mushrooms or faux meat crumbles)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cups water
1 6-ounce box of stuffing mix (any poultry or vegetarian flavor will do)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
3 delicata squash, halved and seeded (or 2 acorn squash)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Carefully cut the squashes in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Spray both sides of each half with cooking spray and place open-side down in the bottom of a 13×9” pan (if the squashes are too big, use a baking sheet instead). Bake on the center rack for 30 minutes.
- While the squashes bake, warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook 5-10 minutes, until they begin to soften.
- Add the ground chicken or turkey, garlic, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, cook another 5-10 minutes until the meats had cooked.
- Pour the water into the pan, raise the heat to high until the water boils, them add the stuffing mix to the pan. Stir until everything is combined, cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let be for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, stir the contents, and let it cool a bit.
- When the squashes have finished baking, remove from the oven, and carefully flip them over so that the open side is up. When cooled enough to handle, heap each squash half with filling. Spray with cooking spray and bake 15-20 minutes.
- Let cool a moment, then serve and nosh!