Stuff a Vegan Savory Mushroom Stuffed Squash

Get stuffed this Thanksgiving.

American (U.S.) Thanksgiving is upon us this week, and that means it’s time for some hearty stuffing. (Our former countryfolk across the pond will know what I’m talking about, even if we’re more or less celebrating the beginning of our very messy breakup.) If there’s a special vegan in your life you’ve been wanting to stuff, or a carny you’d like to tempt to jump the fence, here’s a recipe that can help win them over. It’s got some nice meaty mushrooms that bring the salty bacon (flavor) into the prepped and ready vestibule of the squash, while traditional herbs, aromatics and sherry add savory umami. The apple adds a tarted-up sweetness and light crunch. The squash is baked a bit first so it’s more yielding when you split it, and then it’s baked again with the stuffing so the flavors can conjugate and penetrate the flesh.

Logistics: the bake time is intentionally lower the second time, so if you’ve got other things in the oven at 350 degrees you can time it to put the squash in with them for the last 40-45 minutes. The mushrooms are also roasted at 350, so they can bake with other things prior to that. The pre-baking can be done early in the day, but do remove the seeds, replace the caps and wrap them so they don’t dry out in the fridge. Let them come back to room temperature before you stuff them. The stuffing will come out fine as long as the rice is cooked and you add the mushrooms, thyme and apple before the squashes go in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 4 personal-size acorn squashes (e.g. like a large grapefruit or a softball)
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped semi-fine
  • 1-2 cloves garlic depending on size, minced or crushed
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp ground sage
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 T sherry
  • 1/2 cup wild rice blend (I use Lundberg, but there are various similar brands)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped (they’re spongy, so make sure there isn’t a lot of water in them after you clean them)
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 medium sweet-tart apple (can use Fuji, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Honeycrisp or even Granny Smith if you prefer), chopped in 1/2-in chunks
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • avocado oil to brush parchment/foil (if you have any smoked grapeseed oil, use it with the mushrooms)
  • sea salt to taste if desired

Preheat the oven to 425 to prebake the squashes. You won’t need to slice or seed them yet (they’ll be easier to slice after the baking) but do wash their skins well, and place them on a (foil or parchment) lined baking sheet brushed with a little avocado oil to keep the bottoms from sticking. Bake for only about 30 minutes initially. You may hear steam escaping through the stems. Let them cool at least an hour before you cut into them. Then slice off a little “hat” about 1/4-1/3 of the way down, and gently scoop out the seeds and pulp from both portions. This will be a lot easier than with a raw squash. Save the hats! You can set the squashes aside for the time being or refrigerate as previously directed if it’ll be a long time before dinner.

Heat the olive oil on medium in a quart/medium saucepan and saute the onions for a few minutes until they start to become translucent. Add the garlic and some twists or dashes of pepper, and continue to saute to slightly brown the onions. Add a T of water if needed so the aromatics don’t burn. Pour in the broth and sherry, add the sage, and bring to a boil. Sherry can be salty, and the broth may also be, so gauge whether or not you want to add any sea salt. You may not need any, especially when the mushrooms are added. Add the rice to the pot, lower the heat to simmer, and let the rice cook covered until the liquid absorbs, at least 45 minutes.

While the rice cooks, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, syrup, and paprika in a bowl and toss the mushrooms in this marinade to thoroughly coat them. They’ll soak it up like a sponge if they’re fairly dry. You can toss any leftover marinade. Lay the mushrooms in a single layer on a lined and lightly oiled baking sheet or pan (if you have a smoked oil, it’ll be even better) and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. You can flip them halfway through to keep them from sticking and let them caramelize on both sides.

When the rice is done, fold the caramelized mushrooms, apple, and fresh thyme into the rice. Use a large spoon to scoop the stuffing into the squashes, heaping it so that the “hat” will also be filled but will still meet the bottom portion of the squash when it’s replaced. Bake the reassembled squashes again on a lined sheet at 350 for another 40-45 minutes. Serve with the hats on at a jaunty angle or on the side.

You may want to double (or triple or more) the stuffing recipe so the non-vegans can get some (or the vegans can have more!) since it’s likely they’ll want it. In that case you’ll probably need to bake the excess stuffing in a covered dish along with the squash to cook the apple and let the flavors commingle.

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