**Easier, updated method available in The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook**
Every year I try to come up with a vegetarian dish that steals the poor turkey's thunder at Thanksgiving. Last year I made a wonderful, rich cassoulet
; the year before it was a root vegetable stew in fennel stock served inside of a giant braised pumpkin. This year I decided on acorn squash paired with two of my favorite mushrooms: chanterelle and porcini. The addition of the dried apricots (thank you, Ben
) to the stuffing amplifies the earthy, sweet flavor of the chanterelles. I sliced the squash to show off its beautiful scalloped edges. It makes for a particularly beautiful presentation. The unusual addition of barley to the gravy adds body and texture and the fried sage sends this dish over the top. You really should make this for your family's Thanksgiving meal. This recipe will be for one stuffed squash which will feed two to three, so adjust the number of squash according to how many guests you are expecting. Make extra -- even the omnivores will want to try this one.
For the stuffing:
1 stalk celery (finely diced)
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 "Not-Chick'n" bouillon cube
1 cup chanterelles (quartered)
4 dried apricots (finely diced)
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups brioche or white bread (torn into pieces)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper
Beat eggs and add bread. Set mixture in the fridge for an hour or overnight so the bread soaks up all of the egg. Sauté celery, onion, and bouillon cube in the butter until lightly browned. Deglaze the pan with the wine and reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the chanterelles and apricots to the pan and warm through. Add salt and pepper. Chill mushroom mixture throughly before adding to the egg mixture.
Stuff the squash:
Using a sharp kitchen knife and plenty of caution, cut a hole in the stem-end of the squash just as you would a pumpkin at Halloween. Keep the stem. Scrape the seeds and membrane out of the squash. Stuff your stuffing into the cavity -- be careful not to leave any air pockets. Replace the stem and secure with toothpicks or bamboo skewers. Take a moment to poke a few small holes through the flesh and down into the cavity. This will help keep your squash from splitting as the eggs expand during cooking. Place inside a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake the squash in a 375 degree oven for about 2 hours. I rigged up a soufflé dish with some aluminum foil so the squash could bake upright so as to not squish one side as it bakes. Once it is done, remove it from the oven and place it in the fridge to cool. You will want the squash to be cold when you slice it so that it stays together. All of steps up to this point can be done the day before. Slice cold squash into 1 in pieces and place onto an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle each slice with olive oil and place into a 375 degree oven until the color of the squash deepens and it is warmed through.
For the gravy:
1/2 cup dried barley
1/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms (finely chopped)
1 "Not-Beef" bouillon cube
2 cloves garlic (minced)
3 sage leaves (minced)
1 teaspoon flour
cracked black pepper
Cook barley according to package directions but add the mushrooms, bouillon, and sage to the cooking water. Make a roux by heating the olive oil in a pot, adding the flour, and cooking until lightly browned. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of water to the roux and cook for a few minutes until thickened. Season with black pepper and add the barley mixture. Adjust the viscosity to your liking using water. Spoon gravy over the squash and top with sage leaves that have been fried in olive oil for just a few seconds.