Life in a Northern Town

Hubbard Squash Love

Is it possible to fall in love with a squash? I'm here to not only to say it's possible, it happened to me. I was at the farmers market and spied this beautiful Hubbard in the back of a pick up and felt my heart skip a beat. That 15 pound hulking, greyish blue squash was coming home with me and I was going to stuff it with everything good.

Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Around My French Table is in heavy rotation in my kitchen. It has everything from chicken b'stilla to Pierre Herme's olive sables to a pumpkin stuffed with everything good. Last winter, I was stuffing every squash or pumpkin I got my hands on but I never had a crack at a big, gnarly hubbard until I met this bad boy. It was as magnificent as I hoped. I went back the following Saturday and picked up this squash's little brother. I had an unfortunate incident with my stuffed squash at last year's Thanksgiving (I dropped it on the floor) and I plan on redeeming myself this year.

My version of everything good included italian sausage, caramelized onion, white wine, dried cranberries, wild rice and a variety of fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano and thyme). The only trick I've found with this recipe is managing the water content of the squash and the amount of cream and wine you add to the stuffing. If the squash has a higher water content, make your stuffing a little drier and vice versa.  This hubbard squash was pretty dry so I made sure the stuffing was nice and saturated with my cream and wine sauce.

Squash Stuffed With Everything I Think Is Good (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table)

1 pumpkin or squash, about 3 to 5 pounds 1/4 pound stale bread, cut into 1/2 inch chunks 1 cup wild rice, cooked 1/4 pound gruyère, shredded 1/4 pound parmesan, shredded 4 cloves of garlic, chopped 1/2 cup caramelized onion, chopped 1/2 cup celery, chopped 1 cup italian sausage, cooked and crumbled 1/4 cup dried cranberries 1/4 cup of fresh herbs, chopped 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup white wine salt and pepper freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a very sturdy knife, carefully cut a nice sized cap off the top of the pumpkin.   Clear away any seeds and strings from the cap and hold it aside while you scoop out the seeds and filaments inside the pumpkin.

Combine the cream, white wine and garlic in a saucepan and simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes.

Toss the bread, cheese, wild rice, dried cranberries, celery, caramelized onions and herbs together in a bowl, then pack it into the pumpkin. The filling should go into the pumpkin and fill it well.  You might have a little too much filling or you might need to add to it -- it's hard to give exact amounts.  Season the cream/wine mixture with salt, pepper and several gratings of fresh nutmeg and pour the cream into the pumpkin.  Again, you might have too much or too little.  You don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want to get a feeling that they're moistened.

Put the cap back in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours -- check after 90 minutes -- or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbly and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.  Remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so of baking so that the top could brown.