I love all squash varieties, but the sweet flavor and fluffy texture of Kabocha has won me over as my favorite.
Every year I eagerly look for it at local farmer’s markets and stock up for the winter on as many as I can get my hands on. You can do so much with kabocha! Make creamy fall soups, smear some pureed kabocha on a pizza, roast it with some exotic spices, or stuff it with all sorts of yumminess like I do here!
For this recipe, I use a stuffing recipe very similar to what I serve on Thanksgiving…an earthy and umami loaded mix of sausage, exotic mushrooms, leeks and cheese. And, of course, you gotta have the toasted breadcrumbs!
If you like this stuffing, try making it for Thanksgiving…just cut the bread into a thicker dice, toast and mix with the veggies…it’s a favorite on my Thanksgiving table! Sometimes I add some apple and toasted walnuts. Feel free to post any questions 🙂
The simple roasting method also works great if you just want to serve the squash by itself. You can scoop out the flesh, puree with a half a cup of hot chicken broth and serve it as a healthy, low carb option to mashed potatoes. Kabocha has almost half as many carbs as butternut squash! Making it a great addition to a low carb lifestyle. For more reasons to love kabocha squash, check out this great article by Organic Authority.
And just an FYI, Kabocha squash skin is totally edible and actually filled with good nutrients. So don’t be afraid to eat the whole thing like I do 😉
Kabocha, the Japanese Pumpkin
In the US, we call it kabocha squash. But in Australia and New Zealand, it is commonly referred to as the Japanese pumpkin. And in Japan, they call our ordinary sugar pumpkin Kabocha as well as this squash. It might seem a bit confusing, but all you need to remember is that the western-style pumpkin and the kabocha squash are very similar and are interchangeable when it comes to recipes. I actually tend to replace pumpkin with kabocha in most recipes because of it’s naturally sweeter taste. Imagine taking a pumpkin and combining it with a sweet potato, and you pretty much get the taste of the all mighty kabocha.
Evidence suggests that Kabocha squash (like all squashes) was first grown in Mesoamerica about 8,000 years ago. It was introduced to Japan when the Portuguese sailed it over from Cambodia. How it ended up in Cambodia, I’m not quite sure. Please let me know if you know! The name kabocha is a Japanese abbreviation derived from cambodia abobora, which is what the Portuguese called it. In some regions of Japan, an alternative abbreviation is still used: bobora. I think they’re both adorable, but I might start using Bobora, so that people ask me what the heck I’m talking about and I can sound all smart by telling the Kabocha story 😉
- 1 Kabocha Squash (or 2 if they are not that big)
- 1 lb Hot Italian Sausage
- 2 leeks
- 1 and 1/2 cups sliced Shitake mushrooms (2 cups if not using Oyster)
- 1 cup chopped Oyster mushrooms (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- A whole grain batard (or bread of choice)
- 1 tbs Thyme leaves, chopped
- 2 tbs Sage, chopped
- 1/2 tsp Cumin
- 1/4 tsp Hot Paprika
- 3/4 cup grated white Cheddar Cheese
- 3/4 cup Grated mozzarella
- 1/4 cup Grated parmesan (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Cut the Kabocha in half and scoop out the seeds.(I find it easiest to pierce the Kabocha with a knife tip until you reach the hollow center and to carefully cut in a circle). Brush all over with canola oil (including the skin) and sprinkle with some kosher salt (about 1/4 tsp per half), fresh black pepper (3 or 4 twists), the cumin and hot paprika.
Place the squash flesh side down on a baking sheet and bake until flesh is soft, about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove, turn flesh side up and set aside. Lower heat in oven to 350 to toast the breadcrumbs.
While squash cooks, make the stuffing:
Remove sausage from casings. Heat some olive oil in a large pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat and cook he sausage, breaking it up, until cooked through and slightly browned (about 5 minutes), stirring often. Remove with slotted spoon, leaving drippings in the pan.
Wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel (don’t ever wash mushrooms! They absorb too much water) and remove the stems from the shiitakes. Slice the mushrooms and add to the drippings in the pan. Sprinkle with half of the herbs, a pinch of kosher salt and some black pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add a tbs of butter and mix into the mushrooms.
Trim the leeks, slice the white bodies only in half and make sure to rinse well between the layers (dirt tends to accumulate in leeks very easily). Slice the leeks thinly crosswise. Add leeks and the sliced garlic to the mushrooms and cook on medium low heat until leeks are soft, about 7 more minutes.
Turn heat up to med / med high and add the 1/3 cup dry white wine. Deglaze the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock. Turn heat to low and cook another few minutes until some of the liquid evaporates. Turn off heat.
Slice the bread and either chop into small pieces, or place into a processor until you get breadcrumbs. It’s ok if you get some thick chunks in there. You should have about a cup and a half. Spread the breadcrumbs into a single layer on to a baking sheet. Toast until golden and dry, about 5 to 8 minutes (again, depending on your oven). Let cool slightly.
Add half of the breadcrumbs, specifically all the larger, crusty chunks, to the pan with the stuffing. Add half of each cheese to the pan too and mix everything together. Mix the other half of breadcrumbs with the rest of the cheese and the herbs in a bowl.
Fit as much stuffing as you can in each Kabocha half, and top with the breadcrumb mixture, fitting as much as possible and patting down with your hand so the crumbs adhere.
Bake in the 350 oven for 5 to 8 minutes longer, just to melt the cheese.
Serve the stuffed Kabocha whole or cut in half, depends on the size.
Feel free to substitute the cheeses! Cheddar works great, as does provolone or fontina.