kabocha squash & sausage stuffing.
Stuffing for me is one of those 'eh' items on Thanksgiving. Growing up, our Thanksgiving feast was a melange of delicious Indian dishes and stereotypical Thanksgiving items from the late 1980s - Stovetop stuffing, cornbread from a box, cranberry 'sauce' dumped out of a can, Pillsbury rolls, Betty Crocker mashed potatoes (also from a box). It wasn't my mom and aunt's fault. They tried to conform to American Thanksgiving norms, but lucky for us, they always inserted a few special items: tandoori cornish hens, a beautiful biriyani, and like every day, perfect chicken curry. As we grew up, the dishes got more interesting, as they felt more comfortable inserting themselves and their Indian cooking expertise into the mix. My cousin, who went to culinary school, started amping up our Thanksgivings when we came home for the holidays. As I tasted the magical creations she brought home, it was all over. No more stovetop. No more pillsbury. Thanksgiving dishes had to be new, fresh, and exciting, with a little bit of Indian flair.
Dishes like this stuffing are the result. With a light vadouvan (french masala curry) undercurrent, this hearty kabocha squash and lamb merguez sourdough stuffing is just a tiny foray from a classic. Kabocha squash and spicy lamb merguez sausage are both gently cooked with a sprinkle of vadouvan and dark brown sugar, and then tossed with cubes of sourdough and chicken stock. While a curried stuffing may seem like it couldn't possibly go with a classic turkey, classic mash, or classic gravy, I promise that the pairing will surprise you!
2 lbs lamb merguez sausage
1 large kabocha squash
1 loaf country style sourdough, left out overnight
3 stalks celery
1 yellow onion
4 tbsp vadouvan spice blend
2 tbsp dark brown sugar crystals (sugar in the raw, demerara sugar. regular brown sugar is fine too!)
2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/2 cups high quality chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place kabocha squash, unpeeled, in the heated oven for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop celery stalks into very thin slices. Finely mince yellow onion. Break apart lamb merguez sausage into chunks of roughly equal size. Cut sourdough into 3/4" cubes.
Remove squash from the oven, and use knife to peel the outer layer. Cut the top stem and bottom off of the squash, lay squash flat on the counter, and then use the knife to peel off the outer layer. It should come off easily after 15 minutes in the oven, but if not, place in the oven for another 3-5 minutes. Dice squash into medium sized 3/4" cubes. Toss squash with 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp vadouvan spice blend, 1 tbsp dark brown sugar, and 1 tsp kosher salt. Lay on baking tray in as much of a single layer as possible, and cook in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Squash should be tender, but not mushy.
Reduce oven temperature to 350. Place cubed sourdough onto a baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes, until sourdough is crusty and very lightly browned. These bread cubes should not be rock hard - they should be tough but with a tiny bit of springiness left when you squeeze.
Over medium heat in a medium size skillet, cook sliced celery and diced onions until translucent. Turn heat to high. After 30 seconds on high, add lamb merguez chunks and stir until celery and onions well combined and merguez is seared, about 1 minute. Turn heat down to medium, and add 2 tbsp vadouvan spice blend, 1 tbsp dark brown sugar, and 1 tsp kosher salt. Stir well. Stir frequently until merguez is cooked through, for about 5-7 minutes.
In a 9x12 baking dish, combine merguez, squash, bread cubes, and 2 cups of stock well. Bread cubes should be just soggy. If there are still dry bread cubes, drizzle in a bit more stock.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, until moisture in bread cubes has dried out. The top of the stuffing should be lightly browned.