I love stuffing. It is hands down my favorite part of Thanksgiving.
It’s also a food that, until now, I had only eaten on Thanksgiving. The big Christmas day meal is breakfast in my family, and on Christmas Eve my dad does a casual soups and sandwiches get together. No Christmas stuffing.
And for the rest of the fall and winter where packing seasoned, moistened bread and vegetables into my maw would be completely appropriate? It just… never really occurred to me that stuffing could be a regular side dish on a regular day. I don’t know why. It’s not like I associate it only with being shoved into a giant bird and can’t fathom it just being made in a baking dish, obviously. I can’t explain it.
So a few months ago, when the mister harassed me for hoovering down all the Thanksgiving leftovers in a matter of days, I explained it as an innate need to just get all stuffing in my mouth as quickly as possible, since I only had it once a year and loved it so much. He replied that I could just, you know, make stuffing more often instead.
So I emailed my grandmother to ask her for her stuffing recipes — her mushroom and onion version and her dad’s apple and raisin one.
“Sure you may have my stuffing recipes, but you know me (I kinda just make them, but I will try my best).”
Grandmothers, am I right?
So the recipe read about how I expected: Saute some mushrooms and onions, you’ll be able to tell how much is right and when they’re done enough. Add a bag of Pepperidge Farms — wait, what?
I don’t necessarily have anything against using stuffing mix, I guess. It can make sense on Thanksgiving when you have a million other dishes to tend to, and I learned from some brief googling that apparently some people get real pissed if you mess with their traditional Thanksgiving stuffing by using bread instead of a mix. But I had stale bread in the fridge. So I didn’t want to go buy stuffing mix, and even moreso, I didn’t want to end up with a quarter bag of stuffing mix jammed in my cupboard somewhere in the event that I didn’t use all of it.
So, I scrapped the whole recipe and decided to “kinda just make it.” And unghhh, I ended up liking mine better.
Nobody tell my grandmother.
Acorn Squash with Mushroom, Leek and Sausage Stuffing
2 medium acorn squashes
1 tablespoon butter *
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed, quartered lengthwise and diced **
1 Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Vegan Sausage, quartered lengthwise and diced
4 cups 1/2″ cubes of stale bread
2 cups water
1 tablespoon not-poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
* Use Earth Balance or more olive oil for a vegan dish.
** Leeks are a pain in the rear to clean sometimes. What I usually do is slice the dark green tops off, then slice the white/light green in half lengthwise. Hold the leeks under cool running water, using your fingers to spread the layers apart and make sure you get any stubborn grit out of there.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice both acorn squashes in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds. Spray the cut surfaces lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, then place face down on a baking sheet. Pop in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Ideally you’ll finish your stuffing around the same time as these are coming out of the oven.
While the squashes are baking, spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until cubes are dry and crunchy. Remove and set aside to cool.
While your bread cubes are drying, melt butter and olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, then stir in leeks and mushrooms to coat. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally. Let the veggies shrink up and release their liquid — about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove cover, raise heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the veggies have a bit of caramelization going on. Add vegan sausage and stir to combine, then cook about 2 minutes longer.
In a medium bowl, add bread crumbs then cover with veggie mixture and stir to combine. Stir not-poultry seasoning and ground sage into water. Add liquid slowly, stirring stuffing as you do so. You may not use all of the liquid, depending on how dry your bread is and your personal stuffing preference. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir once more.
Flip your acorn squash halves so the cavities are facing up, and pack each one generously with stuffing. Depending on the size of your squashes, and the size of the cavities in them, you may end up with a little bit of stuffing left over. Just put it into a small buttered baking dish or ramekins, depending on how much there is. Nobody ever complained about extra stuffing.
Put the sheet of squashes back in your oven, along with the leftover stuffing, and bake for 30-40 minutes. The flesh of the squash flesh should be pierced easily with a fork, and the stuffing should be brown and crispy on top.