There’s a crack that opens up in the earth today, letting all manner of little demons and naughty spirits out to roam the earth for the night and make mayhem.  I just thought I’d let you know that, in case you hadn’t heard already.

It’s the original reason behind dressing up on All Hallows Eve (Halloween), actually.  If you were disguised as a witch or demon, then it was highly unlikely that the real demons wandering about would notice you and cause you trouble.  They would think you were one of them and leave you alone.  Which, on the whole, makes sense, don’t you agree?

A similar thing happens on the solstices, and at periods of your life when you’re in transition.  Those pesky demons come out and can make a muck of any number of little things, or even make you sick.  Nowadays we blame things like stress, which often increases in times of transition.  But, those of us who are in the know – and now you’re in the know! – know that it’s actually demons.

It’s something you grow up being aware of when your mother is a professional storyteller and something of a folklorist.  You also know that massive gnarled tree roots are trolls that died of old age, rocky outcroppings are likely pieces of a troll who burst when exposed to sun, the creaks in the attic are just house gnomes, and fairies and elves are everywhere.

The places where I grew up were beautiful enough, and wild enough, and mysterious enough that all of this made absolute, perfect sense.  Living in a city, it’s a little more challenging to notice the fairies and elves, but they’re still there in the nodding of flowers and the fluttering of leaves.  And, I think it’s worth the effort, to see the world as a place that still has some webs of magic weaving through the air, a place where there is more than meets the eye and where some mystery is allowed to linger.

I reflect on this every year when halloween comes around, and again at the winter solstice.  And, I feel thankful that my mother not only explained to us about the hidden creatures, ghouls and goblins, and cracks in the shell of the earth, but also told us about how to ward off the evil spirits.  (Beyond dressing up like one of them because, let’s be practical here, you can’t dress up like a goblin every time you’re going through a transition.)

Wear silver.  That’s supposed to help.  And you can  light your house with candles or burn herbs.  But, most importantly, gather with friends, sing songs, and share meals.  Now that’s some folk lore I can get behind.  (Oh wait, I get behind most folk lore…but this is some of my favorite.)  And, whether you’re being bothered by stress, a sense of uncertainty and tenuousness, or being plagued by goblins, this does seem like it would be a good remedy.

Now, I don’t really have a neat transition to talking about these squash, except that I did in fact serve them to friends, and Joel called them, “kind of magical.”  But, they do seem fairly perfect for a time like Halloween.  And, I think they will continue to be a perfect sort of meal all throughout the winter season.

I had the idea that I wanted to try making twice baked squash, and did a little recipe searching to see what was out there.  I discovered a Martha Stewart recipe for them.  But, the reviews for Martha’s version were anything but glowing, so I decided to take mine my own way.  I did, however, copy her lovely presentation of the squash melange scooped back into the squash shells.

After roasting the squash until tender, you scoop out the flesh, leaving just a modest layer in half of the skins, to help them keep their shape.  Then, you mix up the squash with some flavorings, restore it to the empty shells that you reserved and then return them to the oven for the “twice” portion of the baking.  If you wanted to, however, you could do the second baking in a nice little casserole dish.

I wanted to take the naturally sweet squash over to the savory side, so after blending it into a smooth orange mash with some Greek yogurt, I stirred in sauteed red onions and some pungent aged Gouda (which, I’ll admit was largely my choice because it was the only cheese we had around.  But, it tasted so delicious, I wouldn’t change a thing.).  After toying with all sorts of other ideas for mix ins, I decided, in the end, to keep things simple, and just finished the squash boats off with a sprinkling of pecans and toasty breadcrumbs.

This is another meal that could either be a vegetarian main dish, or could serve as a side dish for a nice fall-ish roast or braise.  In either guise, I think you’ll find you have no problems with goblins at your table.

Twice Baked Butternut Squash (Serves 6 as a side dish)

  • 3 medium butternut squash (other types of orange winter squash will work as well)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  •  ½ cup Greek-style yogurt (thick yogurt) or crème fraiche
  • ½ cup (loosely packed) shredded aged Gouda or Parmesan
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbs. lightly toasted breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat your oven to 425F.  Cut each of the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and rub the cut side lightly with olive oil.  Place the squash halves, cut sides facing up, in a large baking pan.  Cover them with tin foil and put them in the oven.  Roast them until their flesh is soft and easily pierced with a fork (around 45-50 minutes).  Then, remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool briefly.
  2. In the meantime, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a frying pan, over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers.  Add the chopped onion and sautee it until it has softened and begun to brown, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Once the squash is cool enough to touch, scoop the flesh out of the peels, but keep ¼ inch of the flesh lining three of the halves so that they keep their shape.  (Alternatively, you can just scoop all of the flesh out of all of them and do the second bake in a baking dish rather than in the butternut squash shells.)
  4. In a big bowl, mash together the cooked butternut squash with the yogurt (or crème fraiche), cooked onion, shredded cheese, and ½ tsp. of salt.  Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Scoop this mixture back into the three squash halves that you didn’t scoop out quite completely (you can discard the other three), and place the filled squash halves in a clean baking dish.  Sprinkle them with the chopped pecans and breadcrumbs.
  6. With the oven back at 425F, put the stuffed squash into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until they are golden and hot.  Serve with a spoon to scoop out the filling and the flesh of the squash.
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30 Responses to Twice baked butternut squash

  1. Lise Lunge-Larsen says:

    But you might have trouble with dwarves! They love to don their invisibility caps and steal human food, and this dish seems worthy of theft!

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      You are so right!!! But, I’ll make up some porridge to appease them. That was on my to do list anyway. :)

  2. Eileen says:

    Another beautiful blog entry. Thank you. ~ Are you a fiction reader, Emily? If so, my favorite novel about spirits & magic & cracks between worlds is called “Someplace to be Flying” by Charles de Lint. I’ve read it many times. It’s always simultaneously a lovely escape, and a balm for my soul.

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Thank you Eileen! I do enjoy reading fiction – though I frequently find myself reading a lot of non-fiction (I guess school will do that to you!) – and the book sounds wonderful. I’m going to go find it!

  3. Candace Karu says:

    This is such a brilliant recipe…it’s going on my permanent rotation! I’ve been looking for an alternative to my favorite twice-baked potatoes and this is it. The addition of Greek yogurt is genius.

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Thanks Candace! A healthier alternative to twice-baked potatoes was exactly how I was thinking about it.

  4. This looks so wonderful! I can definitely see myself “goblin” this right up!

  5. krista says:

    I have this flagged in my memory for t-day dinner!

  6. Natalie says:

    Oh my this looks do delicious!!!

  7. jo-el-leo says:

    Are those the same spirits that hid your keys under the couch cushions?

  8. jo-el-leo says:

    Or was the space between the cushions actually the crack that opened up in the earth, and your keys just fell in?

  9. Heidi says:

    I can’t believe I never thought to do a twice baked squash. I love twice baked potatoes so I can’t wait to try this, it looks and sounds fantastic. Thank you for the inspiration!

  10. Hannah says:

    What a lovely dish you created! And I so enjoyed reading about goblins and solstices and folklore – how wonderful that your mom shared all of this with you. It’s important to see the magic in the world. When my boys were little we had fairy houses in our backyard and we still have a strawberry fairy under my favorite tree – he’s so sweet to look at. Anyway, I’ll be making this squash soon. :)

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      A strawberry fairy? How darling! I love it! And, I’m sure when your boys are old enough, they’ll really be thanking you. Maybe they already are!

  11. Natalie says:

    Hi Emily! I stumbled across your blog randomly, read your about me page, went through a few of your recipes, and I’m totally obsessed! Your writing is beautiful, and I LOVE the way you talk about food in a way I can relate – what I means is that I can tell how much you love it and not JUST for its taste but for how weaves into the narratives of our lives – which I think is the most beautiful thing about food. I am a sucker for all kinds of squashes and actually just about anything orange (carrots, sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, etc.) – and I can see why your friends said that this recipe was magical! I’m definitely going to be following your blog and making a few of your recipes soon (when I’m back home… currently kitchen-less in college dorms!).

    I have 2 blogs:
    http://nataliesophoto.blogspot.com
    http://cinnamonbums.wordpress.com

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Thank you so much Natalie! Your kind words really mean a lot to me! And, I love having the chance to hear from people who think about food and the importance of the stories and people connected to it in a similar way. It gives me hope for our culture and our food system! Keep cooking! :)

  12. This looks delicious! I am a big fan of twice baked potatoes, but rarely indulge. This looks like a fabulous way to use up some of the squash in the pantry. Thanks!

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Thanks Karen! And, I know what you mean – always looking for ways to use up all the squash in the pantry!…

  13. I tried this recipe last week, and it was amazing! I subbed sour cream for the yogurt and omitted the pecans because I didn’t have any on hand. I also toasted the seeds because they’re an excellent source of manganese, vitamin E & b-vitamins.and a ton of others. I think next time I will top it with pecans and bacon crumbles! And I’ll saute the garlic & onions in the bacon grease for added flavor.

  14. chaoscuisine says:

    “This is the best squash I’ve ever eaten!!!” (quote from your uncle Paul)

  15. [...] always a little tricky and tiring.  Not the least of the reasons for which being that the crack in the earth is open and naughty daemons are wandering around making mischief in our lives and of our immune systems. [...]

  16. What a lovely post! I love butternut squash. Enchanting words.

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