I have a better understanding, and much more gratitude to my parents who managed to put actual warm dinner on the table all the nights of my young life. They were hardly every overly fancy and they often involved a fish stick with a carefully drawn line of ketchup thankyouverymuch. There were some nights (and gosh this memory came at me in a flash) we’d have something called CTOT – short for (oh god) Creamed Tuna On Toast.
If you lived in the Wilson household you were welcomed to a dinner of pale skim milk gravy, oh just barely seasoned with a can of tuna stirred in. It was served over… whole grain toast- so help me god. It’s proof positive that you can make something from really very little AND you can put just about anything in a milk gravy and pour it over toast.
Also… let the record reflect that I was super stoked to eat CTOT. I don’t know. I do not know.
Why that food memory flashed through my mind I’m not sure. I was thinking about all the effort that goes into throwing dinner together. How much of a hodge-podge is often is. How we’re all doing our best on any given evening.
Today’s offering is a testament to hodge-podge dinner endeavors. This may be a bit more earnest and ambitious, but the offering is to grab an acorn squash (or really any seasonal gourds you find pleasing), stuff them with a mix of sautéed savory bits, and bake until the squash is softened and the insides and bubbling and crisp.
My ‘recipe’ in heaping handfuls is detailed below but you’re welcome to use whatever you have on hand – even if that includes a can of tuna.
I made this recipe with 4 acorn squash – you know, to feed my small army.
Here’s what else is involved:
- 2 Italian sausages, uncased and browned well
- onion and garlic
- a few handfuls of chopped mushrooms, sautéed to buttery brown
- fresh herbs, salt and pepper
- torn, stale bread
- chicken stock for moisture
- gruyere cheese because duh.
Layer everything into a big saute pan. Start by browning the sausage. Add the onions and garlic. Add the mushrooms.
We’re cooking everything down in layers, see?
Add the greens. Throw in the bread. Give it all a good toss.
Start to preheat the oven because we’re on our way.
Deglaze the mega-pan with stock or wine, working any glorious brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
The liquid will help soften the bread and moisten all of the ingredients.
Generously sprinkle cheese and herbs. Toss easy.
Pile each squash with filling. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cover the entire pan with foil and bake until the squash is fork tender.
Look at these hunks! On half an acorn squash per person for the most hearty and satisfying dinner.
But these are mere suggestions – the invitation is to stuff your squash with whatever is lingering in your fridge. Grab a meat (or extra mushrooms), grab onion and garlic, add a green, add a carb, add a cheese – you’re good to go!Print
- 3–4 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for topping the squash
- 2 Italian sausage links (about 1/2 pound)
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about a heaping 1/2 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 heaping cup chopped mushrooms
- 3 handfuls of kale leaves, coarsely chopped
- sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- a few tablespoons of fresh herbs like thyme and oregano and parsley, plus more for topping
- 1–2 cups torn stale bread pieces
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm oil. Add the uncased sausage and cook, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes . The sausage doesn’t have to be cooked through completely.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions become translucent and the garlic fragrant, about 4 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and cook until some of the water begins to escape and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 4 minutes.
- Add the kale and stir until just wilted. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the bread chunks.
- Stir in the chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Stir in the cheese and herbs.
- Place acorns cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Stuff each acorn with filling. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the tray with foil and place in the oven.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees F, remove foil an bake for 10-15 more minutes. Test doneness of squash with a sharp knife. You’ll want to knife to meet to resistance – that’s cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated. Reheat in a low oven for 15 minutes.