29 October 2010

Shepherds Pie with Spaghetti Squash Topping

Shepherds Pie with Spaghetti Squash Topping

You've heard spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, and you have one sitting on your counter. Now what do you do with it? Spaghetti squash, also known as "calabash squash" or "vegetable spaghetti", is really quite unique because when cooked the flesh looks like thin translucent strands of thin spaghetti. It has a mild, delicate flavour somewhat like that of yellow summer squash and a watery texture.The flavour of spaghetti squash is similar to other winter squashes but its texture reflects its name. I thought perhaps we could rename it "angel hair pasta squash" or "spaghettini squash" which would more accurately describe the strands, which are not as fat as cooked spaghetti noodles. This texture is the squash’s greatest asset, and the best recipes, I think, play upon it.

Although you can boil or steam spaghetti squash or even prepare it in a slow cooker, I recommend roasting it in the oven, especially when it will be used in a more complex recipe. Cooking in dry heat concentrates its flavours and evaporates some of the squash’s moisture. This is the perfect method for making this dish. When the squash is boiled or steamed, it can become a bit too watery to work well in today’s recipe but would be a great pasta substitute or nice with some butter and herbs!!!

To cook the squash in the oven, use a heavy knife or cleaver to cut it in half lengthwise. Set on a baking sheet and set on the middle rack in a 350F oven. Cook for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the flesh is tender when poked with a fork. Alternately, you can pierce the shell with a heavy fork in several places and bake it whole for about 1 to 1¼ hours as I do. It is important to pierce the shell or you may have some mishaps in your oven. To remove the flesh, hold the sliced squash in your hand with a doubled tea towel and use a spoon to remove the seeds and then use a fork to pull the flesh from the skin. In the large bowl use two forks to separate it into strands.

I discovered spaghetti squash, or I should say my mom discovered it when I was "knee high to a grasshopper". Mom usually served it with just a dab of butter and sometimes herbs. Me I love to play, so quite often add tomatoes or salsa as well as CHEESE!!!

With the colder weather upon us and the shortest day of the year coming up fast I am in need of the gastronomic equivalent of a warm sweater. The making of this dish will find me hibernating in my kitchen and preparing the ultimate of the ultimate of comfort foods!!! Earlier this week I shared one of my favourite recipes for macaroni and cheese which is synonymous with the word comfort food in my books, but coming in a close second would be shepherd's pie. In a few short days I will be heading to San Franscisco and the Foodbuzz Festival so am looking to use up any leftovers I have in my fridge. This is what inspired me to top my shepherds pie filling with spaghetti squash in lieu of potatoes. You can layer your favourite veggies in between the layers or serve it simply with some salsa for that extra punch of flavour.

**Shepherds Pie with Spaghetti Squash Topping**

1-1/2 lbs, ground beef
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup long-grain brown rice, cooked
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
4 tbsp. butter
2 tablespoon. flour
1 cup beef stock
salt and pepper to taste

Spaghetti Squash Topping

1 2-pound spaghetti squash, cooked
2 eggs
1 cup 1% milk
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Melt butter in a large skillet and add onions. Saute until translucent. Add ground beef, garlic and seasonings. Cook for a few minutes until meat is no longer pink. Slowly stir in beef broth and flour and continue cooking until gravy is thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the herbs, and stir well to mix. Cook on medium low for 10 minutes. Add rice in last few moments of cooking.

To make spaghetti squash topping - Whisk eggs and milk together. Add cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper and fold in squash.

Put meat mixture in a 2 quart casserole and spread the spaghetti squash mixture evenly on top. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until meat is bubbling hot and the topping is browned.

NOTE: Soak brown rice prior to cooking. It will reduce your cooking time by half. The beef mixture and squash can be made ahead of time. Cover separately and refrigerate for up to 2 days. If beef mixture is cold from the fridge, bake for an extra 15 minutes.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. This is a great idea for using spaghetti squash! And I am all for the re-name to "angel hair squash"! In fact I am all about this post - looks great Val!

  2. Yes, I do have one sitting on my counter. ; ) Beautiful riff on a fall favorite.

  3. What lovely and nice dish Valli!
    Have a lovely weekend! x gloria

  4. Squash is such a lovely comfort food in the fall. I find I'm using it more and more. Thanks for a delicious new idea.

    Also, thanks for stopping by. I'm a fellow BC'er - Vancouver Island. Your blog is fabulous - very appealing to the eye.

  5. Love your idea to use squash instead of potato but I can't believe the spud-lady want to replace potato.

    Does this mean the next dish is all-spud? ;)

  6. Val, I love the idea of the squash as a topping for Shepherd's pie instead of potatoes. It would definitely give it much more depth of flavor. Very clever.

  7. Interesting topping! Great mix of flavors.

  8. So comforting and mouthwatering!



  9. I love the idea of lightening up this traditionally heavy comfort food with some spaghetti squash. Genius.

  10. Val, You have more muscle than I do. I have to pre-nuke the spaghetti squash before I can halve it for the oven. It's so versatile and, as you know, I use it often but I never thought of Shepherds Pie. Great idea!!

  11. This is pure comfort food. I love spaghetti squash and would eagerly substitute it for potatoes. I can't wait to try this.

  12. Another inspiration with spaghetti squash, this is a fantastic way to use it, I never would have thought!

  13. I love this take on spaghetti squash! I used it in a frittata the other night. I've give some thought to what other vegetables might make a nice shephard's pie topping and I admit I never thought of spaghetti squash!

  14. This looks so delicious. I've only cooked a spaghetti squash, never cooked a dish with it. Great recipe!

  15. I just made my 4th spaghetti squash this fall. Tough little guy to cut through so finally I smartened up with number 4, pierced it and baked whole. I love your recipe for this and today is market day, so I'll be looking because I must make this. Great post. Great blog as always. I think we think alike on a lot of cooking ideas.

  16. this looks FANTASTIC, what a great idea, thanks for sharing and have a great weekend,


  17. You gave me a great idea to use it for my vegetarian shepherd's pie. So not into the potato version.

  18. I love spaghetti sqash. I used to eat it all of the time -and then got hooked on butternut - now that has changed to yam... I go through phases... but must get some more of this. What a great new idea to turn Shepherd's Pie on its head with spaghetti squash. It would be so good!

  19. I've eaten it but never cooked it - thanks for the primer.... and great recipe idea!

  20. Very creative! I am currently hoarding winter squashes, and also collecting ideas on how to prepare them.

  21. What a great comfort food dish! I've never made it but will have to try after seeing this post!

  22. What a great idea! Looks really yummy!

  23. What a great idea to use spaghetti squash in your shepherd's pie. I love the stuff, but just don't think about it until I see a yummy recipe like this one. thanks!

  24. Another wonderful idea Val! The squash works perfectly with the shepherds pie!

  25. That is a great idea! I love mashed potatoes on a shepherd's pie, but this is an alternative I'll have to try! (I just wrestled with my first butternut! -- Whew!)

  26. i get irrationally excited by spaghetti squash--it's just so nifty! great unique use for it, val!

  27. I never use spaghetti squash as a topping. What a great idea to serve with Sheppard pie.

  28. Bellini! This shepard's pie looks like a menu item for us this week! I love how you used the spaghetti squash san mashed potatoes. This lovely squash has gained favor in my family. We often use it in place of spaghetti with a nice tomato pasta sauce.
    Bookmarked for reference later this week!
    I love reading your blog...I am so taken away to great places with every post I read.
    Happy New Year Val...

  29. Just roasted my first butternut squash the other day and was surprised at how easy it was. This sounds like a great recipe to try!


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