Saturday, January 7, 2012

Roasted Kabocha Squash with Bacon, Onions & Garlic

Kabocha squash is a winter squash that looks like a cross between a small pumpkin and an acorn squash:  Round and squat, with a ridged dark-green shell and a deep orange interior that's sweeter than acorn squash.  The seeds can also be roasted, like pumpkin seeds.  This recipe can serve two or four people as a side dish, depending on the size of the squash and whether you halve it or quarter it.  Serve as an accompaniment to roast chicken, pork, beef or venison, or other hearty fare.

Roasting enhances the sweet, mellow flavors of many vegetables, and kabocha squash is no exception.  The biggest challenge in this recipe is cutting through the hard skin of the squash:  Make sure you place it on a flat non-skid surface and use a very sharp knife.  Rather than attempting to halve the uncooked squash, I decided to cut out the stem by cutting around it about 1 1/2" from the stem to create a "lid" that I lifted off using the stem as a "handle."  I then used a large spoon to scoop out the seeds from inside the squash including the flesh side of the lid.  The rest of the recipe is below:

1 kabocha squash (3 to 5 lbs)
Olive Oil
Dried herbs of your choice (Italian herb blend or herbs de Provence work well)
Salt & pepper to taste
3-5 slices bacon (depending on size of squash)
1 onion (choose size based on size of the squash)
2-4 cloves garlic

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Cut out the stem of the squash as described above, reserving the "lid" and removing any seeds attached to it.  Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from inside the squash (reserve for roasting if you wish).  Use your fingers or a kitchen brush to lightly coat the interior of the squash and lid with olive oil.  Sprinkle the inside of the squash with herbs, salt and pepper to taste, then replace the squash "lid."  Lightly grease the bottom of a baking pan or casserole dish with olive oil (I used a square glass baking dish just large enough to hold the squash).  Place the squash in the dish and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until the interior of the squash is fork-tender (the outside will yield slightly to pressure).

While the squash is roasting, fry the bacon in a skillet until done.  While the bacon is cooking, peel and slice the onion.  When the bacon is done, place the cooked bacon on a plate with paper towels to absorb excess grease.  Reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet, add onions and cook until soft and translucent.  While the onions are cooking, mince the garlic cloves and add to the skillet.  Continue cooking the onions and garlic, stirring regularly, until the onions are lightly golden.  Coarsely chop or crumble the cooked bacon, then stir into the onions and garlic.  If at this point the squash is not yet fully cooked, reduce heat for the skillet to keep warm.

Once the squash is done, remove from oven, lift off the "lid" and scrape off the cooked flesh from the "lid" into the skillet, stirring it into the onions, garlic and bacon.  Spoon this filling into the squash and replace the "lid."  Let the stuffed squash sit for a couple of minutes to allow the flavors of the filling to infuse the flesh of the squash.

When ready to serve, remove and discard the squash "lid" and carefully cut the squash into halves or quarters to serve (spoon any spilled filling over the served squash).

Zestfully yours,

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