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Jan 17, 2012
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Wine With . . . Squash with Sausage Stuffing

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas


It’s the season to throw another log on the fire and prepare something delicious and warming for dinner. On this particular occasion we didn’t have all day to wait for a slow-cooked stew or braise, so we turned instead to baked stuffed squash, an equally comforting one-dish meal but one that requires less cooking time. There’s something about stuffed vegetables—peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, squash—that seems to satisfy both belly and soul, and depending on the kind of meat and seasonings, they can be remarkably wine friendly as well.


We chose to use butternut squash in this instance, but any kind will work fine as long as the baking time is adjusted accordingly. (Summer squash like zucchini requires significantly less time in the oven.) Just about any sort of meat will be tasty. You can use lamb topped with feta cheese for a Mediterranean flavor, for example, or ketchup-spiked beef with melted cheddar to produce an American inspired treat. In this case we went for relatively spicy Italian sausage, which we kicked up a notch further by adding chorizo. The type and amount of spice will, of course, influence the taste of the wine you drink with the dish, but whatever your basic approach is, we think you’ll agree that the squash’s inherent sweet flavors combined with the savory meat stuffing makes for a fine dinner, regardless of what the temperature outside may be.


Squash With Sausage Stuffing


Serves 2


1 large or 2 medium squashes such as butternut, acorn or kabocha

½ pound sausage meat

½ pound chorizo

1 small onion, minced

¼ cup finely minced red or yellow pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup grated Parmesan

½ cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sour cream or yogurt to pass at the table (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°


Rinse the squash and pat dry. With a sharp knife, pierce the skin of the squash in a few places to let steam escape. Place the whole squash on an ungreased baking sheet or a sheet of foil and roast it for about 40-60 minutes, or until slightly soft to the touch. When cool enough to handle, slice the squash in half (lengthwise for butternut), and scrape out the seeds and fiber. Spoon out the flesh, leaving just enough to provide a shell for holding the stuffing. Cut the flesh into bite-size pieces.


Meanwhile, place sausage in a skillet and begin cooking over medium heat. As it begins to exude fat, raise the heat to high. Cut the chorizo in pieces (remove the casing first) and add to the skillet along with the onion and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to brown and the meat is cooked through. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Taste for seasoning (since commercial sausage meat can be very salty, do not add salt or other seasonings until this point). Spoon off excess fat, then stir the pieces of cut up squash into the meat mixture.


Divide the meat mixture between the squash halves and top with the cheese. Toss the breadcrumbs with the oil and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 375° for 20-30 minutes, or until the dish is heated through and the cheese has melted.


*     *     *


We found that the key for choosing a successful wine to pair with this dish involves finding one that echoes the yin and yang of sweet and savory found in it. The baked butternut squash tastes inherently sweet (though not overtly so), while the meat, cheese, and breadcrumb stuffing is savory and spicy. Wines that only complement one of these elements do not fare as well as those that echo both.


We tried twelve red wines with our stuffed butternut squash. In retrospect, we perhaps should have tried a few whites as well, but the whole idea for making this dish came from our desire for a warm supper to combat the wintry chill outside, and reds simply sounded best. If you’re making this recipe, or a variation of it, in warmer climes, there’s no reason not to try a full-bodied white as well.


Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Altos de San Isidro, Cafayate Salta (Argentina) Malbec “Reserve” 2009

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

$20

With lots of ripe, sweet fruit flavor, enhanced by echoes of anise and spice, this wine certainly fits the profile that we found works so well with sausage-stuffed squash. Tasted on its own, it seemed almost sugary, but when sipped with the dish it made for a seamless and very successful match.

Castello di Gabbiano, Chianti Classico (Italy) “Reserva” 2008

(Imported by TWE Imports)

$20

Like many Tuscan Sangiovese-based wines, this Chianti Classico displays a dusty, earthy character, particularly in its finish. At the same time, it’s modern-styled, meaning that it also offers well-defined and succulent fresh fruit flavors. That combination made it shine brightly with this particular dish.

Morgan, Monterey (California) Syrah

2009

$20

With peppery, spicy undertones augmenting its sunny California character, this exuberant Syrah made for very pleasurable drinking. It was tasty on its own, and even better when enjoyed with our stuffed squash.

Seven Hills, Columbia Valley (Washington) Merlot 2008

$22

Like all the wines we’re recommending, this Merlot combines sweet fruit and savory, in this case slightly herbaceous, undertones. What made it stand out, though, was its supple, smooth texture. Put simply, this wine was downright fun to drink.

Tudal Family Winery, Sonoma/ Napa (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

$28

Made with 50% grapes from Napa and 50% grapes from Sonoma, this Cabernet is not as forceful, meaning neither as aggressively flavored nor as tannic, as many. Its gentle, nuanced character helped it pair well with this dish. Another Cabernet that we tried, this one from South Australia, however, proved to be too muscular and assertive. If choosing a Cab, then, go with one whose charm comes from nuance rather than brawn.