Tuesday, September 14, 2004
BAKED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH SAUSAGE AND APPLES
Even though it’s been 90 to 100 degrees every day, my Minnesotan body clock is still a-tickin’, and it craves fall foods—roasted chicken, gratins, casseroles, stews. And when I saw butternut squash appear at the farmers’ market, I was bound and determined to try this new recipe (from a cookbook I got from the library recently—possibly The New Joy of Cooking?) despite its weather-inappropriateness. Hey, September is September, right? So last night I opened all the windows, turned on all the fans, fired up the oven, and baked some squash. At least it was dark outside, and A Perfect Storm was on TV, and by watching cold, wet people battle the elements I could imagine the kitchen as a warm (really warm), cozy haven. And the food? Was good. As I imagined, the flavors were perfect together. I have not historically been a squash lover (not since I was a toddler smearing it all over my face, anyway), but I’m coming around thanks to a few good butternut squash recipes, a list to which I’ll add this one. It took a while to make, but most of that was baking time—the prep wasn’t too onerous. The dish was almost on the verge of being too sweet, I thought (A disagrees, but then he has a sweeter tooth than I), but I had a green salad with it and that balanced things out nicely. I’ll definitely make this again…but I’ll wait for colder weather first.
2 smallish butternut squash, about 1 pound each (butternuts are the ones that look like giant peanuts--that's how I always remember it, anyway)
1 cup well-seasoned sausage (about 8 ounces)
1 large, tart green apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch cubes
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground sage (I actually used dried sage leaves, which worked just fine)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and brush a little olive oil over the inside of a 9x13 baking dish.
2. If your squash are too tall to lay in the baking dish, slice the top (the stem part) off of each one as needed. Halve the squash lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and the gross, pumpkin-smelling stringy parts (discard these). Arrange the four halves, cut side up, in the baking dish (mine just barely fit, but I was able to get them in like puzzle pieces, the narrow end of one next to the wide end of the other) and brush them lightly with oil. Cover the dish with tinfoil and put it in the oven to bake “until almost tender,” 30-40 minutes. (For me it was more like 40-45 minutes; at 30 minutes the flesh was still too hard to scoop out with a spoon.) When it's done, take it out of the oven and set it aside to cool slightly. Make sure to leave the oven on for later.
3. While the squash is baking, put a skillet on the stove over medium heat. If you're using whole sausages with casings (as opposed to ground sausage), remove the casings. Add the sausage to the skillet. Unless your sausage is already described as "hot," I'd recommend adding a pinch each of red pepper flakes and fennel while it's cooking. Break the sausage up with a spoon into little bits while it browns. When all the pink is gone, add the chopped apple and cook, stirring, for several minutes until it's crisp-tender, then remove the skillet from the heat.
4. Scoop most of the flesh out of the squash; the recipe instructs to leave “three-eighths-inch-thick shells.” Lightly mix the squash pulp into the sausage mixture, along with 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, the sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Then pile the stuffing into the squash shells, dot with the remaining butter and brown sugar, and bake until the tops are brown and crusty, 20-25 minutes.
Time: 1½ hours (but mostly baking time)