Creamed Spinach and Rice Casserole Stuffed Acorn Squash

I beleive I’ve said once before that I never ate cooked greens when I was growing up.  My mother didn’t like them, so I never got exposed to them.  Until I was a vegetarian, visiting a boyfriend who was attending law school at NYU.  I dated him for two years of his law school career, and visited every chance I got.  He made it a point to take me to each of the 4-star restaurants that were currently housed in New York, and I presented my vegetarian requirements at each. I found a new love for sauteed mushrooms, creamed spinach, and even some forms of polenta during this time, and will always be glad that 4-star chefs are willing to create a meal for picky 20-somethings!

Anyway, I was looking at the bag of mixed greens that came in this week’s share and thought, I wonder what it would be like to make creamed spinach-and-mustard-greens-and-whatever-else-might-be-in-there?  So I thought we’d give it a try tonight. 

I have several acorn squashes at this point, and I was intrigued by A Good Appetite‘s mac & cheese stuffed acorn squash.  However, I’m desperately avoiding grocery shopping this week – partially because I’m trying to make up for all the days of eating out in our budget and partially because I have visions of crazed turkey-day shoppers running me over with their carts if I were to venture out into the grocery realm.  I do have some Creamy Rice Casserole in the freezer that has just been waiting for a use, so I’ll try that baked in a squash.  Of course, I’ve also got some more bacon that might  be good as crumbles since I’m out of bread crumbs…

Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious, and A Good Appetite), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Creamed Spinach

Gourmet  | December 2004

yield: Makes 10 servings; active time: 30 min; total time: 30 min

Ingredients:

  • 3 2 lb baby spinach and other braising greens
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon dash freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation:

Cook spinach greens in 2 batches in 1 inch of boiling salted water in an 8-quart pot, stirring constantly, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water until cool. Squeeze small handfuls of spinach greens to remove as much moisture as possible, then coarsely chop.

Heat milk and cream in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until warm. Meanwhile, cook onion in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add warm milk mixture in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in nutmeg, spinach greens, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.

Cooks’ note: Creamed spinach can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Reheat over moderately low heat until hot.

 
 

Rice Casserole Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds & pulp cleaned out
  • 5-6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 recipe Creamy Rice Casserole from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
  • a few ounces feta cheese

Preparation:

Scrape additional pulp out of the squash to create a bowl, leaving about 3/4-inch squashy goodness on all sides. Save the scrapings for mixing with the rice casserole. Place the squash cut side down in a baking dish & add about 1-inch of water. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix about 1/4 cup of your reserved squash, 3 cups of the rice casserole, and the feta together in a small bowl.  You can freeze any remaining squash for a future use.

Cook the bacon until just begining to crisp.  Remove 1/2 the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Continue cooking the remaining bacon until extremely crispy. After the reserved bacon has drained, mix it into the rice mixture.

Take the squash out of the oven. Pour off the water & flip over. Fill with the rice mixture. Bake for 30 minutes until the rice mixture is cooked through and the top is bubbling.  Sprinkle with reserved bacon bits and cook for another minute or so to warm them through.

The Verdict:

This was actually one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had cooking recently.  My sister and brother-in-law were due to arrive in Tacoma Wednesday evening, and several friends & I headed over to my parents’ house to spend some time with them.  I brought the ingredients and several of my cooking utensils over & prepared this meal while we waited for them to show up.  One of my favorite activities ever is cooking with friends, and I really love that my parents’ kitchen remodel specifically created a kitchen that makes it easy to hang out with the cook.  I do have to admit though: it’s difficult to cook in the kitchen you grew up in when all of the cupboards and appliances are completely different.  My parents had their kitchen completely gutted and re-built two summers ago, and although I’ve cooked there a few times since then, all of the dishes, pots & pans, canned goods, etc. have moved.  I’ll find myself trying to open a cupboard that used to have canned goods, only to realize the pots & pans now live there.  Even worse, I try to grab pots and pans from the overhead rack that was in the kitchen my entire childhood, and then just stand there, confused, until I figure out why I can’t even find the place for what I’m looking for, let alone the item.  Not to complain – their new kitchen is beautiful and functional and reallly great to cook in.  I just get easily confused, because I spent all of my formative cooking years finding things in exactly the same place, and now they’re nowhere near!

My friends and family hung out with me in the kitchen while I cooked, and then tasted as items finished.  No one else was actually there for dinner, specifically, but I made a double-batch so that everyone could have some if they wanted.

Anyway, back to the food: creamed greens are delicious.  My father commented that he probably would have put about 3 cloves of garlic in them, and my friend Carrie let him know that there were like 6 cloves in there.  I didn’t adjust my measurements quite accurately, so the cream mixture was pretty thick, but I love it that way, so I wasn’t worried, and it got good reveiws from all my tasters.

The squash was pretty good.  The rice stuffing worked well for all of us but Trav (he said it was “kinda bland”).  However, the squash still wasn’t cooked all the way through when the filling was done & turning crispy, so I think it needed more cooking time on its own.  I also recommend scooping the squash out, mixing it up with the rice mixture, and eating the whole thing as one big pile of goodness.  I think that one of the reasons Trav didn’t like it that much was that he didn’t blend any of the flavors.  Also, he probably thought it could use more bacon.

All in all, I thought this was an amazing meal for having been planned around avoiding the grocery store!

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1 Comment

  1. August 29, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Looks tasty! Here is a recipe for The Berghoff’s famous creamed spinach:
    http://michaelbeyer.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/the-berghoffs-famous-creamed-spinach/


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