Thanksgiving countdown, people! And as we know, it’s all about the vegetables (ok, and the turkey, and the pie.) (Truthfully? The pie.) Tart apples, lightly sweetened with maple syrup and apple cider and spiced with a bit of nutmeg, fill these squash halves. They would make a fine side dish (you could halve them once they’re baked to make quarters,) but they’re also good for a light supper with a salad when you want to take a break from the heavy lifting your body will be undergoing on the day of the feast.
Depending on the size of the squash, they can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours to become tender, so check them early and often. Carnival squash are also good candidates, and as you can see, they are impressively colorful.
Use an apple variety that will hold its shape. Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, and Braeburn will do the trick. Apples that are BAD for baking are: Cortland, Macintosh, and Red Delicious—they turn into mush, so save them for applesauce if you want to cook with them.
Acorn squash baked with apples and cider
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 small (1 pound each) acorn or carnival squash
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 1/2 cups cider
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Have on hand a large, shallow baking dish.
2. With a pastry brush, coat the bottom of the baking dish with some of the melted butter.
3. Cut a thin slice off both ends of each squash. Cut squash in half crosswise. Scoop out the seeds. Place halves in the baking dish with the cavity sides up, and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. In a bowl, combine the apples, 1/4 cup of the cider, the maple syrup, 1/8 teaspoon of the nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Divide the apples among the cavities of the 4 squash halves, distributing the excess liquid among them evenly. Drizzle with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining nutmeg. Pour the remaining cider into the baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, until almost tender when pierced with a fork.
5. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes, or until squash is tender. If apples brown before the squash is cooked, cover the tops with small squares of foil. Drizzle the cider from the baking dish over the squash just before serving.
Leftovers: Make a squash and apple soup. Scoop out the flesh and puree it with the apples in a blender. Add stock or water, salt, pepper and grated fresh ginger to taste. Drizzle with some of that leftover heavy cream in your fridge if you like.