A New England squash for your holiday spread

By Jim Bailey

For those of you who enjoy polenta and think that only high end, expensive polenta is the best, think again!

We New Englanders were the first to make corn meal mush back in the 17th century.

This delicious side dish is so cheap to make, I hope you rethink spending so much in an upscale restaurant for a dish you can make at home for pennies a serving.

When combined with other Yankee ingredients, you end up with a holiday feast accompaniment that is killer.


3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and cracked, black pepper to taste
1 large (3 pound) butternut squash*
Twine or butchers string



Prepare polenta by bringing milk and chicken broth to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Slowly add the cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese, salt and cracked pepper. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until cooled and firm. When ready, prepare squash.

Cut an inch off of both the stem and bulb ends of squash. Cut in half lengthwise.

Pare just enough skin and flesh from 2 halves to stand up level on a sheet pan (which you should have lined with foil). With a sturdy spoon or melon baller, scoop seeds and membrane from each squash half.

Continue making this “well” down the skinnier portion of the squash. This may prove difficult with these utensils so use a sharp knife to begin with by cutting into the flesh at angles if needed. Do not allow this well to go through the outside surface or you will have a mess in your pan while roasting.

Remove polenta from refrigerator and mound it equally among 2 halves of prepared squash. Cover with unfilled squash half, pressing down lightly just to make sure upper half is filled with polenta.

Tie firmly but not too aggressive and place on prepared pan.

Bake 50-60 minutes, or until the flesh of squash is soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven to cool slightly before carving and serving in 1-inch slices.

* or use 2 smaller squashes

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeThe Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at theyankeechef@aol.com.

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