November 20, 2010

Tex-Mex turkey-stuffed baked winter squash

My husband had been requesting a baked stuffed pumpkin. So I did some research to see what would be the best things to stuff inside the pumpkin. I don't think there's an answer to that question. I saw a lot of recipes for baked pumpkins stuffed with everything from day-old bread and cheese, rice and vegetables, ground beef, more cheese, apples, herbs, nuts -- basically anything you think would go well with pumpkins would be good. Since I only had one pie pumpkin on hand, I decided to use one pumpkin and one squash (which happened to be a sweet dumpling and the sweetness of this squash went really well with the stuffing). I wanted to make a hearty stuffing that had a bit of a kick to it. I really like the combination of Tex-Mex flavors with squash. I wanted to mix some black beans or rice into the stuffing, too, but I knew that it would make too much stuffing for just two winter squash. So - maybe next time. If you are making more of these though, adding those items would be a great way to stretch the stuffing. This will feed 3-4 people as a main dish, depending on the size of your squash. 

Tex-Mex turkey-stuffed baked winter squash
2 medium sized pie pumpkins or squash (such as sweet dumpling)
1 lb ground turkey
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
about 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
salsa of your choice (I used roasted chipotle salsa, which is medium to hot)
cayenne pepper hot sauce, optional
lots of extra virgin olive oil

First, cut the tops off of your squash/pumpkins. For pumpkins, this is easy (just like you are going to carve a pumpkin). For the other winter squash, you need to make sure you pick ones that have a big hollow middle. You will probably have the best luck cutting pretty straight across the squash. Once you have the tops off, scrape out all the insides and seeds (save the seeds and roast them for a tasty snack). If you are using any squash that have a pointy bottom, carefully cut off the point (but be careful, just do the very tip so it can stand up easier).

In a skillet, warm some olive oil over medium heat. Add the jalapeno, garlic, and onion to the skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the turkey to the pan along with the cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper. Cook until no longer pink. Stir in about 1/4 cup of your salsa and the cilantro. Also, you can put in the hot sauce now if you want any.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Start to fill your squash. Put a little cheese in first and then spoon in the turkey mixture until about half full. Gently push it down to make sure it's well-stuffed. Then put another layer of some cheese and continue filling with the turkey until you get to the top. Gently push it down again and top with a couple spoons of salsa and a little more cheese. Do this for all your pumpkins/squash.

In a deep baking dish, drizzle some olive oil and spread it around until it covers the bottom. Then put the pumpkins/squash into the baking dish and put their tops back on. Drizzle the tops with some more olive oil and then rub it all over the outside.

Bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes to one hour. This time will vary depending on how large your squash are. They are done when the outsides begin to turn brown/golden and you can pierce the skin and flesh with a fork. 

Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to a plate. Let cool for a few minutes. Remove the tops and cut in half or in wedges for serving (or give one to each person). The skin will have become soft, so you can eat it or peel it away. Serve with extra salsa or hot sauce, sour cream, or some tortilla chips, if desired.

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