Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kabocha Squash with Sunchokes, Mushrooms & Cheese

Kabocha Squash with Sunchokes, Mushrooms & Cheese
Serves: 4
Kabocha Squash with Sunchokes, Mushrooms & Cheese 
This is the second vegetarian entrée option for your Thanksgiving meal…or any other time. Last week I posted a Roasted Acorn Squash recipe. Take your pick or serve both and let your guests choose. They are terrific. An obvious but unappreciated upside to stuffing and baking squashes is as the ingredients cook gently inside, they infuse their flavors into the gourd’s flesh, and the dish becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Kabocha squash are available year round.  The flavor and texture of the Japanese pumpkin is likened to that of a sweet potato crossed with a pumpkin and sweeter than butternut squash. You can easily recognize a kabocha by its dark green color with some celadon colored strips and a dull surface. Similar in shape to a pumpkin, it is a bit more squat, has a very short grey stem and is denser than a pumpkin because of its smaller cavity. The firm flesh inside is an intense yellow-orange color.
Kabocha squash

Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes, are an edible knobby looking tuber, which look a lot, like ginger root. They grow underground, much like a potato.  You do not need to peel them; the skin is edible. Simply scrub them clean under cold running water with a stiff brush. They taste slightly nutty, and savory like a cross between an artichoke heart and the best potato you’ve ever had.
If you have not tasted Tallegio cheese, you are in for a treat. It is a semi-soft Italian cheese that has a strong aroma but its flavor is comparatively mild with a buttery, fruity taste. The texture is moist to oozy.  Spread any leftovers on bread and enjoy. If you have to substitute, I would recommend a strong Limburger, Fontina or Gruyere.
  • 2 Kabocha squash, about 3 lbs. each (or sugar pie pumpkins)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 Tb unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces dried mushrooms  - can be porcini alone, or a mix of porcini, oyster and chanterelles
  • 3 Tb extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 10 large cipollini onions, thinly sliced (or leeks)
  • ¾ lbs sunchokes, scrubbed and thinly sliced, about ¼ inch (unpeeled)
  • 3 Tb chopped fresh sage
  • 1 C fresh breadcrumbs
  • ½ lb Taleggio cheese, cubed
  • White truffle oil or shavings of white truffles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350-degree F. Put 4 oz dried mushrooms in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water. Set aside.  Scrub clean the kabocha squash and cut off the top quarter of pumpkins (including stems). Scrape out and discard seeds and fiber. I use a grapefruit spoon to do this as it scrapes clean and easy. Generously season pumpkin cavities with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Put 1 Tb butter in each cavity.

Sliced sunchokes 
Sunchokes with mushrooms
Scooping out the squash
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 3 Tb olive oil. Add 10 large thinly sliced cipollini onions and cook, stirring, until translucent, 5 minutes. Season with salt. Stir in very thinly sliced unpeeled ¾ lbs of sunchokes and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 10 minutes. Meanwhile drain mushrooms and roughly chop. Add mushrooms to pan. Cook 2 minutes more. Season mixture to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cipollini onion 
Stuff squash: Put squash on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Divide filling between cavities, packing down if necessary. Drizzle olive oil, cover with foil and cook in oven until tender, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt remaining 1 Tb butter. Add 3 Tb chopped fresh sage and cook 1 minute. Add 1 C fresh breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Squash with the fixins'
When squash is finished baking, remove from oven and mound each with cubed Taleggio cheese.  Return to the oven until cheese melts, 5 minutes. Divide breadcrumb mixture over tops and return to oven for 2-3 minutes. Drizzle a little optional white truffle oil over squash. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

With the melted cheese....
This is a rich and filling entrée. If you plan to use a side dish, I would recommend cutting in half or quarters being careful to get equal parts of the filling and wonderful topping. Wine pairing is relatively simple – champagne, of course, Viognier, a buttery California Chardonnay or dry to off-dry Gewurztraminer or Riesling.  All wonderful.

We loved this entrée…even my carnivore husband!  We shared recently with friends who were equally enthusiastic and no one mentioned a need for meat. Since all were avowed carnivores, this is quite a recommendation. Give it a try!

Bon Appetit!


adapted from recipe by Chef Michael Tusk, SF


  1. This looks fabulous! I'm going to dig some sunchokes from my back yard this weekend. :)