So the other day I ran across a recipe card, in my own handwriting, that I vaguely remember from four years or so ago. I so rarely write down the recipe when I come up with something new, I imagine this must have gone over well with my family. I recreated the dish (with slight variations from the written version, of course) the other day and enjoyed it enough I wanted to share it.
One of the things I love about this dish -- it doesn't have a name yet -- is that with slight variations, you might well have enjoyed something like this in late August or September in the camp of the prehistoric peoples that hunted mammoths in the spruce forests along the shores of Lake Agassiz where I grew up. I enjoy feeling at some level like we still have a connection to those hardy hunter-gatherer types.
So let's call it Venison-stuffed Squash, or maybe Pleistocene Thanksgiving:
1 small onion, diced
2 lbs venison (or other lean meat), diced
1 c. wild rice (uncooked)
1 c. raisins
1 c. diced apples
2 T. worcestershire sauce
1 t. ground sage
1 t. thyme leaves
1 T. salt
2 T. vegetable oil
2 c. water
One large squash or small pumpkin
Combine wild rice and water and 1 tsp. salt; bring to a boil and simmer about an hour. While this is simmering, brown venison and onion in oil and worcestershire sauce in a large saucepan. Add spices including remaining salt. Cook uncovered over medium heat until meat is thoroughly browned and most of the liquid has cooked off (but not totally dry). Wild rice should absorb all the water as it's cooking, but if not drain as needed. Add raisins, apples, and wild rice to venison mixture. Mix thoroughly. Remove seeds and pulp from squash or pumpkin, leaving the lid intact like for a jack-o-lantern (but don't carve eyes and a mouth, please.) Spoon venison, fruit and rice mixture into the squash and replace the lid. Bake at 325 degrees for 90 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the side of the squash.
To serve, spoon meat mixture out and scrape squash from the rind to use as a side-dish. Or, if you're daring, simply slice the entire squash into wedges and serve wedges and meat mixture together on individual plates. I have also heard of people pouring cream over the contents after it's stuffed in the squash. This gels a bit as it cooks and makes it easier to cut the whole business into wedges, I understand. Of course, I don't think they had milking cows in the Pleistocene. It's a matter of priorities, I guess.
The quantity of venison mixture in this recipe will be far more than you need to fill a large squash. So it's a good thing it is also excellent as cold leftovers, and even more so if you're experimenting a bit and decide to add in a half cup of grated parmesan cheese before cooking. I think next time I make this I will try adding dried cherries or cranberries instead of (or in addition to) raisins to give it a little more zing.