More Winter Comfort

One of the things I really adore about having a CSA share is how, months after boxes are no longer being delivered and the season is done, my family is still enjoying those final winter storing vegetables. One of our favorites are the cute little carnival squashes that we tend to keep in a big basket in the entryway to our home. Little by little, they find their way into our favorite dishes, but a special treat involves roasting them and filling with amazing comfort food classics.

Shepherd's pie, a meat and veggie mixture topped with creamy mashed potatoes, is a great comfort food casserole classic. Assembling the various parts of it and stuffing them into little roasted squashes makes for a fantastic cold weather treat. Of course, as is often the case, some tweaks and changes can always be made to this base recipe, so never fear.

Any winter squash can be used, although the amount of time it takes to roast them and how much of the fillings should be used to assemble them might vary quite a bit. I used the carnival squashes because I had them on hand and because they are downright adorable! You can add a bit of cream or milk if you don't have or want to use soft cheese — I just like the flavor I get with the cheese. Different vegetables can be used, though those listed are fairly traditional and easy to come by this time of the year. And some people use ground lamb or a combination of both beef and lamb to make shepherd's pie. And, as is suggested by the recipe itself, feel free to add seasonings according to your preferences and tastes.

This makes a surprisingly hearty meal and can stand on its own, although a nice green salad makes a welcome accompaniment. If I've got a busy evening coming up, I've been known to assemble the stuffed squashes and simply bake them to make dinner time quick and painless. After all, couldn't we all use a bit more winter comfort?

Shepherd's Pie Stuffed Squash

  • 4 carnival squash, sliced in half
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 4 T. (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2 oz. soft cheese - I used gorgonzola
  • 1 T. cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. diced carrots
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas
  • 1 can (14 oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice - I added smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Place the squash, split side down, onto a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes. When they are done, carefully scoop the seeds out of each squash half, leaving a cavity in each half. Set aside, leaving them on the baking sheet used to roast them.

While the squash are roasting, boil the potatoes until soft. Drain the water and mix in the butter and cheese until the potatoes are mashed and creamy. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots; sauté for 10 minutes. Add the ground beef and thoroughly brown the meat. Add the peas, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings and stir well to combine.

To assemble, spoon a generous amount of the meat mixture into each of the cavities in the roasted squash. Then, carefully spoon a mashed potato "lid" onto the top of the squash. Bake in the 400° F for 20-30 minutes or until the edges of the mashed potatoes brown slightly. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 3-4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour