Saturday, November 15, 2008

Apple-Sausage Stuffed Squash with Pecans

It's time for a change.

Last week the leaves in the Carolina Piedmont were crimson and gold. This weekend the rains are washing them all to the ground. Soon the skeletons against the sky will define the season.

I've really enjoyed the fall here; the fire burning in the hearth, the brilliant colors, the crispness in the air. But I don't look forward to the bleak chill of winter. But since I have to be here a little while longer, it's time to think about some of my favorite comfort foods, things that haven't been a normal part of my repitoire for the last 20 years or so, since I left Michigan.

Squash, apples and pecans are all in season. Mixing them with sausage and some warm spices makes a terrific hearty meal for a chilly night.

Apple-Sausage Stuffed Squash with Pecans

2 small butternut squash
1/2 pound sausage meat
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 large tart apple, cored and cubed
1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon sage
salt & pepper
vegetable oil or spray

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Spray or brush the cut side with vegetable oil. Place in covered baking dish and bake for 35-45 minutes until very tender. Set aside to cool slightly. When cool, scoop the pulp out of the shell, being careful not to tear the squash shell.  Cut the squash into chunks and set aside.

Brown the sausage in a skillet. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain all but a tablespoon or 2 or the fat. Add the onions, and saute till tender and lightly golden. Add the apple and cook for a couple minutes until tender-crisp. Stir in everything else, including the squash and sausage, and season with salt & pepper to taste.

Pile the filling back into the squash shells and dot with butter. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes, until lightly brown and crusty on top.

Serves 4.