Pre-bake acorn squash to make cutting them a snap for a festive holiday meal. This tip works for kabocha, jester, and other winter squash too. Pre-baking makes cutting the squash faster and safer. See the recipe below for how to keep stuffed squash warm to serve up to an hour later.
I made this recipe for a birthday party with 11 guests this week. For once, I was ready to welcome everyone before the doorbell rang! My friends loved how pretty the squash looked and the savory/sweet flavor combination. I was worried about finding seven organic acorn squash to bake. Imagine my delight when I found mountains of local organic squash on sale! I used acorn squash for the party because I'd never tried the jester squash. The jester squash I bought to try turned out to be similar in flavor and texture to acorn squash, but with a harder shell. The pre-baking technique below worked very well for the jester squash. Its bright colors were still vivid after baking. Organic acorn squash was a real bargain at just $1.49 a pound, but the colorful jester squash would be a worthy splurge, especially if you use it as a decoration for a week or so before you eat it. Kabocha squash is even more flavorful but harder to find.
If you are cooking for one or two, see my quick microwave version of this recipe.
Active time: 22 minutes. Total time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Serves 8, divides and multiplies well, adjusting time by 3 minutes per squash. Vegan and gluten free.
4 acorn, kabocha, jester, or other winter squash
2 cups long-grain Basmati rice, white or brown
4 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cup raisins
2 cups chopped pecans, with 8 halves reserved for garnish if possible
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
2 tablespoons buttery spread (optional)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
- Heat oven to 350°F with an oven rack in the center and room above the rack for a whole squash. (If you are making more than 4 squash, also put an oven rack in the bottom position for a second cookie sheet.) Scrub squash and prick with a fork all over so steam can escape while baking. For easy clean up, line a rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Put whole squash on the cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow squash to cool for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, rinse rice well and put it in a large pot with water and salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 50 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except any pecan halves for garnish. Cover and continue to cook until filling is warm, stirring occassionally.
- Cut squash in half from stem to pointed tip. Use a spoon to scoop out seeds and goop. Put each half back on the cookie sheet cut side up, with the larger squash in the middle where they will cook more. Use a second cookie sheet if you are cooking more than 4 squash. (Optionally, for extra flavor, poke orange squash flesh with a fork in several places, then add about 1 teaspoon buttery spread and brown sugar to each squash.) Cover squash with aluminum foil and bake until flesh is fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
- Fill squash with stuffing and top with pecan halves. Serve immediately or cover again with aluminum foil (use the same foil!) and keep warm for up to an hour in the oven at 200°F. The squash will be safe to eat if you keep it in the 200°F for longer but it will start to dry out. Refrigerate any extra squash for up to five days and reheat in the microwave before serving.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Use this squash-baking technique with other fillings, from bread stuffings to beans with salsa.
- If you have a convection oven, convection bake squash at 325°F for 23 minutes.
- Thanks to Laura Theodore, the Jazzy Vegetarian, who suggested this tip about pre-baking squash during her tasty talk at the Triangle Vegfest. Laura, you saved me just before a big party!