21 November 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Stuffed Squash

Many people ask me, a Notorious Vegetarian, what I like to have as a main Thanksgiving entrée instead of turkey. The first answer is almost anything. Whether I was living in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or California, I frequently saw rafters of adorable wild turkeys—sometimes with fuzzy chicks—poking along the fields and roads. Then BAM, I'm facing a large dead turkey on the table. Is it wrong to wish an animal well because it's so cute? Couldn't we eat vultures instead?

The second and final answer is Stuffed Squash. You can pull this off in two ways:
1) Cut a medium-size winter squash (preferable sweet and bright orange like kabocha or butterCup) in half, scoop out seeds and orange goop, bake it face down in 1/4 inch water for 50-70 minutes at 375, fill each half with a pre-made stuffing of your choice, and then reheat them at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or so right before serving.
2) Use whole miniature squashes like delicata or carnival squashes. Slice the stems off of each squash. Scoop out and discard the seeds. If the squash is too round, slice a bit off the bottom so it can stand firmly upright. Lightly oil the flesh and place them facedown in a baking dish. Add 1/2 inch of water and bake at 350 until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Tightly pack them with premade stuffing, mounding the stuffing slightly in each. Place the stuffed squashes in a baking dish with a little water, cover them and bake 15 minutes until just heated through.

Now that you're serving dinner, every person gets a stuffed squash half or a whole mini squash on their plate. You can first ladle some gravy onto each plate, add the squash, and spoon cranberry sauce before the squash. Put mashed potatoes to one side and serve vegetables on a separate plate. The dinner will look quite impressive and taste like one of those heavens where people don't eat cute turkeys.

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