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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Pseudo-Stuffing is Freakin' Delicious!

So last night I got a hankering for some fall flavors when the weather finally turned a bit cooler and gourds are everywhere you turn in preparation for Halloween. A slow Friday night with nothing on the agenda, I wandered through the Central Market aisles looking for inspiration. I gathered a few types of mushrooms (the woodsy flavor always reminds me of fall), some butternut squash, sage and pecans. Aha, I thought, I've got the perfect ingredients for a little Autumn hash. I grabbed a bottle of wine and was busily dreaming up how to cook this little number in under an hour due to the grumblings in my tummy, which is probably why the dish made it from the kitchen to my mouth without the chance for a good photo op.

I used a combination of locally grown white button mushrooms (pre-sliced for convenience) and a small handful of deliciously expensive shiitakes, but you could gather up an assortment of any of your favorite fungi. The wild mushrooms in particular add a woodsy aroma and flavor that just can't be matched by button mushrooms alone. I recently learned the trick to a good saute for mushrooms (here), the main trick being high heat, oil and room for the fungi to breathe.

Another key to this dish if expediency is your goal, is to buy a package of frozen, cubed butternut squash. You could take the time to roast the squash for 45 minutes yourself, but sometimes convenience wins out over bragging rights. But if you've got the time, a good roast would only add to the medley of fall flavors in this stuffing. Somehow, without even really trying, I think I've found my go-to stuffing for Thanksgiving, and it's completely grain free. The boyfriend thought the butternut squash was the regular old starchy stuffing bits, so you can probably fool the diehard grain lovers in your family. And I bet it would be spectacular cooked with some sausage mixed in too. Go crazy!

1 package frozen butternut squash, cubed
6 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
handfull wild mushrooms (or as many as your pocketbook will allow, sliced in large chunks or whole)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried whole sage (you can use fresh, but dried keeps way longer)
1/2 c. pecans
coconut oil (olive oil will work too)
salt to taste


1. In a medium skillet on medium heat, dry toast the pecans. Set aside.
2. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add wild mushrooms and a pinch of salt, but don't crowd the pan. Let brown, then turn mushrooms and finish searing. Set aside.
3. Same skillet (yes, a 1-pot dish!), heat a bit more oil then add button mushrooms. Don't worry about crowding these little guys, they're not as special or delicate as the wild bunch. When they start to shrink in size, add the diced onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until all the moisture has evaporated and the veggies are browning. In the last minute of cooking, add the minced garlic. Set aside.
4. In our heroic skillet, throw the frozen butternut squash in and let cook until you get browning on all sides. Throw in the sage, then add back in all the ingredients you've set aside, preferably on one plate to minimize dish duty afterwards. Mix it all together in the skillet and enjoy the intoxicating aroma coming from your now exhausted little skillet.
5. Serve with grilled chicken, sausage, steak, fish, pretty much anything you like, and enjoy!

I had the leftovers this morning mixed in with scrambled eggs and it was heavenly. Nothing better on a cool morning.  And if you're like me, you can eat this and pretend that you live in a place with an actual autumn.
Caution: Pseudo-Stuffing may transport you here