Nothing particularly innovative here, but I did come up with my own stuffing mix that I think turned out well. Ham, cranberries and sage are a great match for squash.
1 medium acorn squash
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup ham, finely chopped (I used a simple city-style ham that lacked smoky or sweet additions. I don't see smoked ham working too well in this dish. Honey or maple baked would, but you might want to reduce the sugar.)
5 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon dried cranberries, soaked for a half hour and roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
0. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Cut squash in half top to bottom. Remove gunk. I saved the seeds for baking but that's certainly optional. Place the squash cut side down in a baking dish. Add 1/2 inch water. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium pan on medium heat. When it's stopped frothing add onion and ham and a pinch of salt. You want to sweat the onions, but you don't want the released liquids to evaporate so don't spread them out too much. When the onion is soft mix in the sage and cranberries. In a minute or so, when the pan becomes aromatic, mix in the sugar and allspice. When the sugar has dissolved sprinkle in the bread crumbs and remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the breadcrumbs until all of the liquid in the pan has been absorbed. Set aside.
3. Remove the pan from the oven, uncover and flip over the squash. Let cool five minutes. Pack stuffing into the squash, don't jam it in, but get a good bit in there and it's fine if it mounds up a bit. Sprinkle with a few pinches of brown sugar and recover.
4. Bake squash for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, remove foil cover and bake until tender. There's a lot of disagreement on how long this last stage should take and I don't know about you but my squash never seems to finish cooking. I realized this time around that that may be because the top dries out in a way that's not far texturally from undercooked and I can't tell the difference. Try 20 minutes uncovered and see how it goes.
I cut my squash unevenly so the smaller half was overcooked by the time the larger was done. There was probably a good ten minute difference in cooking times so chop carefully in that first step.
The stuffing dried out and got a little crispy on top which was nice. The flavors intensified to a bright salty and sweet that was a bit much on its own but tempered well by the mellow flavor of the squash.
The texture did end up a bit crumbly though so I'm thinking of maybe adding a binder, maybe an egg, next time. But then it would be a big meatball instead of proper stuffing. I suppose that's not necessarily a bad thing. Or maybe just packing it in a bit tighter would keep it from drying out so much. You guys have any advice?