The first smells of Thanksgiving drifted through our kitchen this week. I’m talking about that aroma of celery, onion and sage cooking on the stove; the very core of the standard stuffing.
From that point, stuffing can go just about any direction. This time mine headed straight towards cranberry, orange and quinoa and then took a right turn and hopped directly into an acorn squash.
I used the unseasoned croutons I made from leftover Pain de Mie Complet and instead of using all bread as I would with my usual stuffing; I substituted some of it with cooked quinoa. Pecans added a little crunch and I loaded mine with cranberries. You can adjust most of the ingredients to your liking and perhaps add some diced apple or apricots, use walnuts or change the flavors with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
I was a little unsure of what the result would be, but was pleasantly surprised. This could easily make the Thanksgiving table both for flavor and appearance, but we used it as a main course and training for the big day.
Cranberry Orange Quinoa Stuffing with Pecans in an Acorn Squash
1 small acorn squash
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
½ lg onion, diced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of one orange
1 ¼ tsp poultry seasoning
¼ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp celery salt
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 cup unseasoned croutons
½ cup cooked quinoa
1 – 1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup chopped pecans
½ cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prep the squash by splitting it in half. Remove the seeds. Gently pierce the flesh with a fork. Drizzle and coat with olive oil. Place in a greased baking dish and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the butter or heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Next, stir in the orange zest, poultry seasoning, dry mustard, celery salt, salt and pepper. Cook 1 minute.
Turn off the heat and add the croutons and quinoa. Stir in the orange juice and then add the stock one ½ cup at a time. The amount of stock you need will depend on the type of bread pieces you use. Mine were chopped fine so I used about 1 cup. You want the stuffing to absorb all the liquid, but be moist enough so that you can firmly stuff it into the squash. It should be able to hold its shape when pressed together.
Once the stock is added, stir in the pecans and cranberries. Evenly divide the stuffing and use a spoon to transfer and gently stuff the mixture into each half of the acorn squash.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as a side dish.