• 2 small acorn squash, halved, seeded and chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 small shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dry rubbed sage
  • 1 (6 oz.) box wild rice blend (seasoning packet removed)
  • 1 3/4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries
  • 1/2 c. pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for topping
  • olive oil, salt & pepper

I imagine that some of you out there experience the same plight that I do in finding a dish to take to a family Thanksgiving dinner: Differences in culinary adventurousness, palates, generations, and backgrounds can make for an unusual – and sometimes bland – Thanksgiving feast. A couple of years ago, I took a dish to the in-laws’ Thanksgiving feast that I just knew would be too out there: a lively mixture of roasted acorn squash (with the skin on?!), wild rice (grass seed?!), sage (again with the grass!), dried cherries (shriveled maraschinos?!) and toasted pecans (eh, OK…). Lo and behold – and much to my astonishment – the fam ate it up, and raved about how much they loved the dish, even commenting on how they liked the faint sweetness of the cherries. Really? Who’d-a-ever-thunk?

The shallots, garlic and sage give the casserole a nice savory undertone, while the cherries and pecans add a sweet, almost candied element. And of course, nothing brings a casserole together better than buttery, salty Signore Parmigiano (and for the love, none of that stuff from a can).

Try this out on your family this year, and see what they think! They’re sure to thank you for expanding their horizons – and it may just become a staple at the Thanksgiving table every year. Enjoy!

Wild Rice & Squash Casserole

Preheat the oven to 450°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the chopped acorn squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the squash are soft and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, and add the shallots, garlic and sage, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the wild rice blend and 1 3/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until tender, about 25 minutes.

Remove the rice from the heat and fluff with a fork. Add the dried cherries and pecans. Carefully fold in the roasted acorn squash and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Place rice and squash mixture in an 8”x8” baking dish, and top with more parmesan cheese. Bake at 450° for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbling a little. Remove from the oven, and serve.