I first saw this recipe on the radio. NPR had a feature in which they talked about this “meatless dish with gravitas.” The topic was Thanksgiving, and ways that vegetarians can be just as festive for the holiday as anyone else. The recipe at hand was something called "Veggieducken." (To view of the transcript or to hear the program, go here)
When I heard about the dish I had to go online to find out more. It looked like a truly impressive dish. The primary ingredient was a banana squash “2 feet long or as big as will fit in your oven.” My problem was that I had never heard of banana squash and did not recall having seen one. A little research revealed that it is a winter squash and a member of the Cucurbita maxima family. I had been holding onto this recipe for a year, and even though the previous winter I had seen no banana squash, I was determined to try this dish before my daughter left home to begin her Fall semester in grad school.
Admittedly, it was not quite the season for winter squash, but I made the rounds to specialty supermarkets, to no avail. I went to the farmers' market one weekend near the end of summer. I decided I would ask the farmers if they grew banana squash so I could get an idea of when to look for it. I found no farmers who even knew what a banana squash was. (Maybe it’s one of those Northeastern crops, I thought.) Not being able to procure a banana squash, I trolled the farmers market to find a substitute – a large butternut squash would have to suffice. I was able to find a large butternut squash that even had an unusually thick neck (it is the cylindrical shape of the banana squash that plays a key role in veggieducken).
I took my large butternut squash and procured all the other ingredients necessary for the veggieducken. Once back in my kitchen, I had to improvise. I sliced the butternut squash down the middle and scooped out the seeds and pulp, but I would need lots more space if I were to stuff that thing. I decided to carve out a cavity in the neck. After that, I proceeded with the recipe exactly as prescribed by Dan Pashman on the NPR program. What I wound up with was a squash that would not quite close up all the way, so I wrapped the whole thing in aluminum foil to bake it. I also ended up with lots of unused stuffing, an extra yam, some stray leeks, and several pieces of squash that I had carved out of the neck of the butternut. I decided to combine all those ingredients and throw them into a casserole dish. All of this was put into the oven and then we waited for the outcome.
My version of veggieducken, though smaller than what was featured on NPR, was indeed a hit and still quite festive. Just like with a Thanksgiving meal, we had lots of leftovers for the next couple of days. As for the casserole, it was just as delicious but unfortunately was not a very attractive dish – not something I would want to display for company.
Here is Mr. Pashman’s original recipe. It is definitely worth the effort, and if I ever find a true banana squash, I’ll do the bone fide version!
Recipe courtesy Dan Pashman
Total Time: 1 hr 45 min
Prep: 30 min | Inactive Prep: 10 min | Cook: 1 hr 5 min
Yield: 12 servings
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 3 red bell pepper, stems and seeds removed, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley, loosely packed
- 1 cup fresh sage, loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 4 cups breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 yams, peeled and ends cut off to make it 6-inches long
- 3 medium leeks, rinsed and halved lengthwise
- 1 banana squash, about 2-feet long or as big as will fit in your oven
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Pulse the garlic and onions in a food processor 6 to 8 times. Push everything down from the sides of work bowl using a rubber spatula and pulse 6 to 8 more times. Scrape into a large bowl and set aside.
Pulse the bell pepper in the food processor until finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add to the bowl with the onion mixture.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture (including any liquid in the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Add the parsley, sage and thyme to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. (Can use the same large bowl as before, no cleaning necessary.)
Add the breadcrumbs, broth, onion mixture, salt, black pepper and remaining olive oil, stirring to combine.
Wrap the yams in several layers of damp paper towel and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Let set until cool enough to handle.
Trim the ends from the squash, and then slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and any loose fibers using a large metal spoon. Make a stable bottom by slicing about 1/2 inch from one of the halves.
Press about 2 cups of the onion stuffing into the cavity of the bottom squash, making a hollow space in the center.
Line the hollow with 3 leek halves, cut-side up, pressing firmly into the stuffing. Cover the leeks with a thin layer of stuffing, pressing to create a hollow for the yams. Lay the yams into the hollow and cover with a thin layer of stuffing. Arrange the remaining leeks, cut-side down, over the stuffing. Cover the leeks with another layer of stuffing, pressing into a mound about the size to fit into the remaining squash cavity.
Cover the stuffing with the remaining squash half, pressing firmly to set in place. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, covering loosely with foil if it browns too quickly. It's done when a wooden skewer slides easily into the center. Let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a cutting board. Cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice in half into a semicircle and serve.
Cook's Note: The ends of the squash won't be very pretty when sliced since the stuffing doesn't go all the way to the end, so we didn't count the ends in the number of portions. Slice the ends off and discard.
© Recipe courtesy Dan Pashman from http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/veggieducken-aka-squashleekotato-roast.html