Usually when I ask Adam what he wants to eat for dinner, he replies “I don’t know. What do you want to make?” It is wonderful that I am cooking for someone who will eat just about anything, but at the same time, the infinite possibilities sometimes paralyze me. I often pull ideas from friends and family. A few weeks ago, we attended a dinner party at our friends’ house. The husband is a vegetarian, while his wife is not, though she has become quite skilled at cooking vegetarian meals for her family. She made acorn squash as a side dish and spoke about it as if it was no big deal to make. It was amazing! I had seconds, and I know Adam did as well. I knew I had to try my hand at this lovely squash!
The acorn squash, in this case, was the center of the dish, while the pork was a bit of an afterthought. I don’t mean to offend the pork, but I was so excited to experiment with this gorgeous “winter squash” with its dark green skin, and yellow-orange flesh. I do not believe that I have ever cooked acorn squash, but I have roasted other squashes so I wasn’t too worried. It is slightly sweet and I wanted to smother it with butter, sugar and spices, and that is just what I did. I liked this recipe because I was able to use maple syrup from my home state, Vermont.
Pork, in my mind, is a sweeter meat, and I usually pair it with other sweet things like carrots, cabbage, and definitely apples. I thought the sweetness of the acorn squash would go really nicely with the pork. I had pecans ready and waiting for another dish I planned to make, and imagined that pecans would be a great accompaniment to the squash. I could just imagine the toasted nutty flavor of the pecans wafting around my kitchen and thought of pecan pie – it was sure to be a hit! Ooh, and it was! The nutty, light crunch of the crust was a nice contrast to the sweet, juicy meat, and the squash was like candy! Adam had seconds.
**Notes: The original recipe calls for it to bake for 45 minutes covered and then for another 20 to 30 minutes uncovered. I found this to be way too long. I think baking it for 45 minutes covered, and then uncovered for 10 minutes would be sufficient. The sugar in the pan ended up burning a little in spots.Sugar and Spice Acorn Squash (adapted from Emeril Lagasse, foodnetwork.com) Printable Recipe
2 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon plus a pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Position rack in center of oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
On a cutting board, cut the squash in half lengthwise. Be very careful the squash is hard and round! Scrape the seeds and fibers from the squash with a spoon. Cut each squash half in 2 and place the quarters in a baking dish so that they fit in 1 layer, skin side down.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth with a rubber spatula. Divide the butter mixture among the squash quarters, about 1 tablespoon each. Butter mixture will melt inside the scooped-out squash wells. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake, covered, until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.
With a pastry brush or spoon, brush/spoon the melted butter from the squash wells evenly over the inside of each squash. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the squash is golden brown around the edges.
Carefully transfer the squash to serving plates and serve immediately.Pecan-Crusted Pork Medallions (adapted from Closet Cooking) Printable Recipe
1/2 cup pecans
1/8 – 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
3-4 boneless pork medallions
1/2 cup flour
1 egg (lightly beaten)
2 tablespoons oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If your pork medallions are thicker than 1/4 inch, you should pound them out.
Pulse the pecans and bread crumbs in a food processor. Set-up 3 shallow bowls with flour in one, egg in another, and the pecan mixture in the 3rd. Heat oil in oven-safe skillet on medium heat. Dredge the pork in the flour, then the egg, and then the pecans. Saute pork medallions in oil for approximately 4 minutes each side or until golden brown, careful not to burn the pecans. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the pork medallions are cooked through and slightly pink on the inside. Transfer to a plate & enjoy!