Acorn Squash Stuffed with Venison, Fennel and Moroccan Spices

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Venison, Fennel and Moroccan Spices:

I stumbled upon this recipe on Food52, and was intrigued… But, I made a few changes that I thought were better suited for the Moroccan concept – namely switching the dried cranberries for pomegranate seeds and using manchego instead of cheddar cheese.

1 large acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
½ tsp sea salt, divided
½ cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground venison
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ cup fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground fennel seed
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp harissa
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup Greek yogurt
½ cup manchego, grated
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 400°.

Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds and fiber. Place the squash halves, cut side down in a baking pan with a rack. Put enough water so the pan fills just below the rack – and is not touching the squash. Bake for 30 minutes. Pour out water, flip the squash so that the cut side is facing up, season generously with sea salt and spray with an olive oil cooking spray. Bake for another 10 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, heat the olive oil and sauté the venison, onion and fennel in a skillet on medium high heat until the vegetables are soft, and the venison is crumbled and cooked through. About 8 minutes. Then, add the minced garlic, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, black pepper and harissa, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the yogurt and pomegranate seeds. Taste the filling and adjust seasonings as needed.

Scoop the filling into the acorn squash, packing it tightly and mounding it on the top. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes, then top the squash with cheese and bake for another 10 minutes. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

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I decided to go with a bottle of the Arctic Saison from Grassroots Brewing.