All of the components cook separately for about 40 minutes and will finish around the same time. This is efficient, but I definitely recommend reading through the instructions a couple of times so you have an idea of what’s going on. If any one component is done way before or way after, no biggie. Everything can hang out while the other things finish up.
2–2 1/2 pound squash (kabocha, acorn, butternut all work great)
1 1/2 cups wild rice blend (I really like Lundberg, it has a ton of great texture)
1 extra large or two small onions
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans (optional)
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup white wine (or just use more stock)
3/4 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper
fresh sage for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the squash in half. Place cut side down on a baking tray or dish (cover in foil first for easy clean up.) Roast until a paring knife can easily pierce completely through, 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly until needed.
Meanwhile, set a pot of water on to boil for the rice. Season heavily with salt. Once boiling, add the rice and cook for 40 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside until needed. (We are cooking this like pasta, not the typical measured water method.)
While the squash and rice cook, caramelize the onions. Fill a small measuring cup with water and keep it handy by the stove. Thinly slice the onions. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions to the skillet and season with salt.
Cook the onions, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes or until a lot of the water has cooked off and the bottom of the pan starts to brown. (The onions themselves should not brown–see the picture for reference.) Add a couple of tablespoons of water from your measuring cup and stir, scraping up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down until it’s just above medium and repeat. Cook, add water, scrape and stir until the onions are a soft and deepening in color, about 40 minutes. Turn the heat back up to medium high, and add the syrup and vinegar to the pan. Continue cooking and stirring until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are dark and jammy, about 5-7 minutes. (If at any point you need to stop to check on the squash or drain the rice, just turn the heat down to medium-low. They can hang out for a minute while you attend to other things.)
All of your components should be now be cooked and ready to party.
First, the squash. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and discard. Scoop out the squash flesh in large chunks and add it to a large bowl. Don’t worry about being neat or perfect here. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Add the drained rice, the onions, and drained beans (if using) to the bowl.
Return the onion pan to the stove and heat another tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir, cooking for a minute. Add the wine, scraping up any of those brown bits and stirring to avoid lumps. Cook for a minute or two or until reduced by half. Add the stock, continuing to cook and stir for a couple of minutes until bubbling. Add the stock to the bowl with the other ingredients.
Give everything a big stir. You want everything well distributed, but you don’t want to mash up all of the squash–you want some chunks. Spoon it all into an 8×8 (or equivalent) baking dish. Use the back of your spoon to create some divots. If you smooth it all out you’re missing out on a lot of texture! Return it to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top of the casserole is lightly browned.
This can be made a day or two ahead of time. Just cover with foil and refrigerate. Reheat (still covered in foil) in 350 degree (or whatever the holiday host’s oven is at) oven for about a half an hour.