This is a dish for special occasions, especially when served with Apple-Walnut Salad with Honey Mustard vinaigrette. Some warm rolls and chilled dry Prosecco (or hard cider) will complete the meal. This is my go-to recipe when I want to make something a little fancier than usual for a holiday meal in winter. This recipe makes two generous servings and can be easily multiplied for more servings. It is even more celebratory with gingerbread cake for dessert. The cranberry mostarda can be made the day before as can the gingerbread cake. Also, the vegetables can be cut up ahead of time to make it a little easier.
1 5-inch diameter squash (or two small squash; adjust cooking time appropriately)
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup of diced onion
¾ cup of diced celery
1-½ cup of diced Cremini mushrooms
1 teas minced garlic
1 cup of diced whole grain bread
2 tbsp. dried thyme leaves, crumbled (1 tbsp. ground thyme)
Salt and pepper to taste
1-½ to 2 cups of mushroom broth or more as needed. (Pacific brand)
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1-½ cup cranberries
¾ cup diced red onion
2 tbsp. apple butter (or another sweet preserve)
¼ teas red pepper flakes
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
Bring sugar and water to boil in a 2-quart sauce pan. Add cranberries and reduce heat to medium. Cook until cranberry skins pop, approximately 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer berries to a bowl, set aside.
Add onion, pepper flakes and apple butter to the sauce pan, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Return cranberries to the sauce pan, add the mustard and cook until thick, stirring often. This will take approximately 10-15 minutes.
Cover the pan and set sauce aside while you prepare the stuffed squash.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Select a pan big enough to hold the squash and line it with foil.
Make a few steam holes along one of the upper grooves of the squash, put the squash in the pan and into the oven, and roast for 30-40 minutes. The squash should be a little soft but not collapsing.
When finished roasting, let cool enough to handle then cut in half lengthwise along the groove with the steam holes. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Salt and pepper each half.
For each squash half, tear off some large enough to wrap around and be folded over the squash half. Place each half on a piece of foil and pull up the foil around the squash leaving the top open. Place both squash halves, with foil, in a baking pan. Prick the inside of the squash all around with a fork so that the sugar and juices from the stuffing get into the squash. Set aside.
Sauté the onions and celery in a non-stick pan over medium heat for 7-10 minutes or until edges of vegetables start to brown. Add diced mushrooms and thyme and cook until the mushrooms lose their water and it evaporates. Add approximately 1/3 of the mushroom broth and cook until that evaporates, scrapping the pan with a wooden spoon to get up all the brown sticky bits from the bottom of the pan.
When the vegetables start to dry, add another 1/3 of the mushroom broth and the bread cubes and scrape the pan again. It is similar to making risotto. You want to intensify the mushroom flavor as much as possible.
When the vegetables and bread get dry again, add the rest of the broth, stir and season lightly with salt and pepper and turn off the heat. The stuffing should be quite moist but not soggy. If necessary, add more mushroom broth.
Putting Together the Squash and the Stuffing
Spoon the stuffing onto the squash halves. Fold the foil over the stuffed squash and pinch the top together on each half. Roast the stuffed squash in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the squash from the foil and place each half in a shallow soup bowl (or a plate). Spoon some of the Cranberry Mostarda over the squash and serve the rest in a small bowl at the table.