as you’ve probably figured out by now, if you’ve been around here for a hot minute, i’m not that into dinners with 3 separate sections on the plate, where the meat, the potatoes, and the (stereotypically boiled or steamed) veggie aren’t allowed to touch each other. i was never the kid who would freak out if the broccoli touched the steak (indeed, i was the kid who said, “i don’t care who’s touching what, i don’t like steak or broccoli; can i please have a bowl of pasta instead? no, not that tomato sauce, the other one, please.”).
so naturally, the dinners that i like best now are the ones where everything is all jumbled up in one bowl. and if that bowl is edible too, so much the better! heeeellllllooooo squash season!
we kicked off squash season this year with spaghetti squash bowls with sausage and spinach and now we’re back at it, cramming our whole dinner into a squash half. given that we’re not even halfway into october and squash season is about 14 months long, i think we can expect to see another squash recipe or two before asparagus season returns…
but for now, let’s focus on hoisin chicken stuffed acorn squash. we start with the acorn squash and coax him into cooking in less than an hour by cooking him cut side down for the first 30 minutes so that he steams himself almost all the way done. then we flip him over and slather him in a hoisin sauce mixture and finish baking him, letting the sauce get all nice and caramelized.
while all of that is going on, we sauté some chicken and then some spinach. once everything is cooked, all we have to do is combine it together and stuff it into the squash halves. hooray dinner in an edible bowl!
(tell me, do you eat the acorn squash skin? i’m curious. i do. i was going to add a poll question asking this, until i remembered that 10 pm is not the time to try to add new bits of technology to my website. so, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think about eating squash skin. i’ll see if i can get this poll thing to work for next time i have a pressing question like this…)
oh, and speaking of polls (which we were just doing parenthetically), i’m going to dive into the responses to my reader survey this weekend and i’d love to hear from you! if you have a moment today or tomorrow, pretty please take the survey! it’s been really fun (and illuminating!) to peak at the responses so far and i’ve already started working on implementing some things based on your answers. i’ll share more about the results next week! and, of course, thank you to those who made time to share their thoughts with me. i appreciate it!
ps – if you’re looking for more acorn-squash-stuffed-with-yums, may i suggest acorn squash burrito bowls?
- 2 acorn squash, halved and seeded (i love a grapefruit spoon for this)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 lb. (454 g.) boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1” (2.5 cm) pieces
- 12 oz. (340 g.) baby spinach
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced, divided
- 2/3 cup (186 g. / 6 ½ oz.) hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 6 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2” (5 cm) fresh ginger, freshly grated (microplane fine zester is my go-to tool)
- 2 teaspoons chili garlic paste (or sambal oelek)
- preheat the oven to 400° F. line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. set the squash halves cut side down on the parchment. bake for 30 minutes. the squash should be nearly but not all the way tender by this point.
- meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the hoisin sauce. add about 2/3 of the scallions, reserving the remaining scallions to top the finished dish.
- use a spatula/potholder combination to carefully flip the squash halves over (watch for escaping steam!). brush the cut halves with about 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce each. stick them back in the oven for another 10 – 15 minutes until they are fully tender (the tip of a sharp knife should easily pierce the flesh all the way through to the skin, especially at the stem end). if they are done cooking before the following steps are completed, drape a piece of aluminum foil loosely over them to keep them warm.
- while the squash is cooking, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. when the oil is shimmering, add the chicken pieces in a single layer. let them cook undisturbed for about 4 minutes, until they start to brown enough that they release from the pan easily. flip the pieces over and repeat until all of the pieces are cooked all the way through (165° F or consistently opaque throughout, especially the bigger pieces), about 12 minutes. transfer the chicken to a bowl and return the skillet to the burner. add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and heat. add the baby spinach and sauté, stirring nearly constantly, for about 2 minutes, until just wilted. add the chicken back to the pan, along with about 2/3 of the remaining hoisin sauce (assuming you have brushed the cut squash halves already in step 3; otherwise, just use about half the sauce). cook and stir constantly until everything is evenly coated in the sauce and the chicken is hot, 1 – 2 minutes.
- transfer the squash halves to a serving platter or individual plates. divide the chicken and spinach mixture evenly among the squash halves. sprinkle with remaining scallions and serve immediately. leftovers keep for 2 – 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator and even i, someone who is really not into microwave reheated chicken, thought the microwaved leftovers were fine because the hoisin sauce flavor is strong enough to overpower whatever that microwaved chicken flavor that i have an issue with is.
gluten free – if you want to make this recipe gluten free, use gluten free tamari sauce or coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce. for the hoisin sauce, see if your store carries a gluten free variety. i tried a jar of joyce chen gluten free hoisin sauce and when compared to ‘regular’ hoisin sauce, it… wasn’t great (one-note molasses flavor and mayo-like texture). in the finished dish with the other flavors, though, it was fine, if you’re in a pinch. there are also recipes online to make gluten free hoisin sauce; i haven’t tried any of them (yet).
adapted from acorn squash stuffed with chicken and hoisin sauce, which ran in the boston globe on january 19, 2016.