Tonight's birthday party got big enough that we weren't sure the shepherd's pie would stretch far enough. We decided to expand the menu a bit, and I had an acorn squash, so I looked up some recipes online. Then I thought, hey, I should spice this up a bit. Here is the result, which was received with great enthusiasm.
1 acorn squash
2 pinches fine sea salt
4 tablespoons brown sugar
about 1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
2 tablespoons butter cut into 4 pats
1-2 tablespoons half-and-half (optional)
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Cut the acorn squash in half vertically, from the stem end to the flower end. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Scrape the inside of the squash to remove as much of the stringy mass as possible without cutting into the flesh. Place the halves cut side up in a baking dish.
Sprinkle a pinch of fine sea salt into each squash half, spreading it around. Put 2 tablespoons of brown sugar into the hollow of each half. Sprinkle generously with apple pie spice. Top with two pats of butter per squash half, which should cover most of the brown sugar.
Add about 1/2 inch of water to the baking dish so that the squash won't burn or dry out too much. Put the squash into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes. When done, the flesh and rind should be soft; the flesh will be slightly translucent; and the edges of the rind should curl inward slightly.
Serving Option #1: If you wish to serve these as individual portions, allow them to cool slightly and then set the dish on the table. This works well for people who love squash and/or when this is intended as a significant part of the meal.
Serving Option #2: If you wish to serve this as a mass, you may cream the squash. Allow the squash to cool slightly. Carefully lift one half and pour any liquid filling into a medium serving bowl. Scrape the flesh out of the squash and into the bowl. Repeat with the second half of the squash. Mash the squash well with a potato masher, or use a mixer on low speed. Add 1-2 tablespoons of half-and-half, then mash again. Serve.
This serves 2-4 people, depending on how much you like squash.
If you don't have fine sea salt, ordinary table salt will do.
I used apple pie spice because I didn't have pumpkin pie spice, which would've been my first choice. Good single spices for acorn squash include cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger, and nutmeg. You can measure exactly if you prefer, but I find that sprinkling gives better distribution in this case.
If possible, use real butter and half-and-half for this recipe. You could try substituting margarine or milk, but the fat helps smooth and bind the squash.
This recipe would probably work with other winter squash, such as butternut. You may need to adjust the amounts used for the filling.