The eternal dilemma presents itself again : what to make for your holiday mains? Tofu? Yes! But maybe you already eat a lot of tofu and you’re looking for something with a little more wow factor, both in shape and in colour? Eggplant? Yes! But what is this? 1979? (Just kidding we love stuffed eggplant here). Honestly though, winter squash! Hello!! It comes in a variety of colours, shapes and patterns, it’s in season during the holiday rush and it’s already got the perfect shape for stuffing! My favourite thing about doing winter squash was the excuse to pull out that old, nostalgic roaster and the chance to fill it full of savoury treats.
Winter squashes all have slightly different textures and flavours when cooked, but they don’t stray too far from that familiar creamy and hearty end of the spectrum, like pumpkin and butternut squash. I used White Swan (pastel yellow), Carnival (green, orange and white), Sweet Dumpling (white and green) and Delicata (white and green). You can use any squash, heirloom or not, in a stunning holiday main such as this. You can smother them in gravy or not; they even go with cranberry sauce (my dream come true). Of course, you can use your family’s favourite stuffing (I’ve included a rift on my mother’s) or you can use my holiday cornbread stuffing, if you need something gluten-free. Save all those seeds and roast ’em!
4 winter squash, your choice, halved and gutted
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to your taste
1/4 teaspoon each, dried sage, thyme, marjoram and oregano
Generous pinch of nutmeg
~2 cups prepared stuffing, such as my cornbread stuffing
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head garlic, whole cloves separated and peeled
225 g (1/2 pound) mushrooms, any kind
Fresh herbs, such as sage, rosemary, thyme and parsely
~1 cup vegetable stock, or vegetarian chicken stock
Preheat oven to 350 F. Drizzle the olive oil over the exposed ends of the squash and season with salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Scoop stuffing and fill each cavity with it. Arrange chopped vegetables around the squash in the roaster. Pour stock into the bottom of the roaster. Cover and cook for an hour. Remove lid, make sure the bottom of the roaster hasn’t gone dry and bake for an additional hour, or until the stuffing is golden brown and the squash is fork tender. Serve hot with all the fixings. You eat, or not eat, the skin, in case you were wondering.
Leafy Cauldron’s Bread Stuffing
Enough for 4 squash, plus a dish on the side
1 baguette, stale, cut into medium size cubes
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine
5 stalks celery, leaves included, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, rosemary, savoury
1/4 teaspoon salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith or McIntosh, diced
Handful of chopped cranberries
~1 litre (1 quart) vegetarian chicken stock
Cube bread and set aside. In a large skillet, over medium low heat, melt non-dairy margarine and add the celery and onion and sautee until both are translucent. Add the seasoning, apple and cranberries and stir to coat everything evenly with the spices. Turn off the heat and bread, tossing to distribute everything as evenly as possible. Pour the stock in slowly, stirring and adding just enough to moisten all the bread cubes. Stuff your squash, or whatever else you’re making. Add the rest to a greased baking dish, cover and bake at 350 F for about half an hour.