Acorn squash is a satisfying side when roasted and topped with a pat of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, but filled with a hearty stuffing of wild rice, pecans, and cranberries, it’s a meal in itself. Loaded with comforting flavors, this vegetarian dish brings fall home, but it can be made any time of year.
The wild rice mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead; keep it refrigerated in an airtight container.
You can make the stuffing up to 6 hours ahead; keep it covered in the refrigerator.
3 medium acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 cups cooked wild rice mix
2/3 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
NOTE: The squash baking was a bit fiddly. I will bake it differently next time as in cut side down for 30 min or so, then turn and bake until almost tender, put in stuffing and finish baking.
Place the squash cut-side up on a baking sheet, brush 1 tablespoon of the melted butter over the tops and insides of the squash halves, sprinkle with the brown sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until just fork tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of the melted butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it foams, add the onion, shallots, and celery, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute.
Remove from the heat and stir in the rice, pecans, cranberries, and measured salt and pepper.
Divide the rice filling among the roasted squash halves (about 1/2 cup for each) and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of butter over top. Continue roasting until the squash is completely fork tender, the edges have started to brown, and the filling is heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes.