Honeynut Squash and Apple Stuffing
From Vucacious Catering

For Chef Kim Vu, the main event of a holiday is actually the side dishes and her take on a classic stuffing recipe is all about enhancing taste by selecting peak produce.

“Thanksgiving happens to be my most favorite holiday of the year,” she said. “It’s a holiday I really enjoy because it’s the food Super Bowl of the entire year and in my household it’s really about the side dishes, all the different side dishes are fantastic.

I know I wanted to create a side dish recipe for this because I feel it’s the highlight of the holiday.”

Her business is based on using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients to create a custom menu that best reflects an event and its guests. Her specialties include New American, Asian fusion, Latin fusion, and “Santa Monican” fare.

As someone that develops recipes on a weekly basis as part of her catering business, she said her process is always to start with what’s fresh and seasonal at the market.

She then considers how those ingredients will be represented and delivered in the dish. From there, she leans on her existing knowledge and some experimentation to unlock the best approach.

Vu’s recipie used Honeynut Squash, a lesser known and smaller cousin of the Butternut.

The vegetable was developed by Chef Dan Barber and Michael Mazourek, a professor of plant science at Cornell University.

The squash fits in the palm of your hand and has been described as having significantly more flavor and sweetness compared to its more recognizable counterparts.

The squash is readily available at the Santa Monica markets and is in season this time of year.

Vu’s recipe develops that flavor by cooking the squash in pork fat (bacon or pancetta) while adding some freshness and acid with the addition of apples.

The result is a sweet/savory combination that appeals to the comfort food tendencies of the holidays.

“I really love this recipe because there’s strong umami, meat/savory flavors but it also has bright flavors as well,” she said.

While Vu uses Honeynut squash and Pink Lady apples for the dish she said home cooks can substitute any variety that they have on hand because she doesn’t want her recipes to make anyone feel limited or intimidated.

While there are several ingredients to her stuffing she said that at the end of the day the technique is limited to stirring the vegetables on the stove, adding broth and adding bread.

While there’s some wiggle room on specifics, Vu is adamant about sourcing from farmers.
She said even if farmers sell to stores as well as at a market, the logistical differences between the two methods of sale create real differences in the quality of the product.

Fruits and vegetables have to be shipped to a store under ripe to prolong shelf life while produce sold at the market has been harvested for maximum quality.

Vu will be using Weiser Family Farms Honeynut Squash, Cayuma Farms Apples, Autonomy Farms Bacon and Ca’doro Bread in her version.

“More importantly I really do believe the flavors and ingredients coming out of the market are really more superior than what you’re going to get at the grocery store,” she said.

Chef Kim Vu runs Vucacious Catering, http://www.vucacious.com.

Honeynut Squash and Apple Stuffing

Yield: 10 servings

8 ounces bacon or pancetta, chopped
4 cups diced apples
4 cups chopped peeled honeynut or butternut squash (about 3/4-inch cubes)
4 cups chopped swish chard or spinach
1 onion, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
12 cups 1/2 -inch stale bread cubes (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Butter, for the baking dish
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and butter a 3-quart baking dish.

Cook the chopped bacon or pancetta in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Remove the bacon to a plate, and reserve the bacon fat, leaving about 6 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pot to cook more vegetables.

Add the apples, squash, onion, celery, sage, and thyme. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, add the bread, the vegetable and broth mixture, bacon, and parsley. Toss until combined. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Drizzle with some of the bacon fat, if desired.

Cover the dish with foil and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until golden, about 30 more minutes.