This Apple and Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash uses a number of classic Autumn ingredients…and one unexpected ingredient, too: vanilla beans!
This Apple and Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash post was sponsored by SLOFoodGroup, but the recipe and opinions are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Spiced!
The farm-to-table movement has been going strong for a number of years now. I personally love it! I enjoy learning about the farmers who work tirelessly to supply food for us. When I was younger, I didn’t think much about where my food came from. I just stopped by the grocery store, picked up what I needed and then went on my merry way. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that food has a story, too. It all comes from somewhere, and someone is responsible for producing the food that makes it’s way to my kitchen.
From cattle ranches in Nebraska to dairy farms in New York to peanut fields in Texas, I’ve had the chance to learn a lot about the food supply chain. Next up: vanilla beans.
Did you know that vanilla comes from orchids? In fact, Spanish explorers in the early 16th century came across vanilla and called it “vainilla” (little pod). That’s exactly what vanilla is…seed pods from specific varieties of orchids. When ripe, these seed pods are about 5-6″ long, and they’re filled with thousands of tiny seeds. One of my favorite ice cream flavors is Vanilla Bean, and those little dark specks in the ice cream are vanilla seeds. Kinda cool, huh?
Harvesting vanilla beans is a time and labor intensive process. The beans must be carefully cultivated and then dried and aged before they become the vanilla beans that we use in the kitchen. I’ve had the chance to talk with Shawn from the SLO Food Group recently, and he shared some personal photos from one of his recent vanilla bean harvesting trips in Tahiti. I am fascinated by the entire vanilla bean process!
Shawn is my go-to source whenever I need vanilla beans for recipes. Heck, some of the beans that I have in my kitchen could be the very beans we see in these photos. How cool is that?
Vanilla Extract vs. Vanilla Beans
I use vanilla extract quite a bit in baking, but I turn to vanilla beans when I really want to highlight the vanilla flavor in a recipe. Take this Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting for instance. That cake is a holiday favorite (I’ll be making it again this year), and the real vanilla bean seeds in the frosting produce a wonderful taste. Similarly, I love (!) using vanilla beans to make vanilla bean whipped cream. Adding a dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream to the top of hot cocoa? Winter time perfection right there!
To extract the seeds from a vanilla bean, simply slice the bean in half and then use the back of a paring knife to scrape the seeds out of each of the two halves.
Apple and Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash
As much as I love vanilla in desserts, I must admit that I rarely use vanilla beans in savory cooking. However, Shawn and I were chatting, and he mentioned that vanilla beans in Tahiti are commonly used in both sweet and savory dishes. Using that conversation as inspiration, I incorporated vanilla beans into a recipe with other classic Autumn ingredients. Not only is this Apple and Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash visually appealing, but it’s quite tasty, too!
I scraped out the seeds from two Tahitian vanilla bean pods for this Apple and Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe. The vanilla isn’t overpowering at all, but it adds another layer of flavor to the finished dish. I made this for dinner earlier this week, and both Laura and I loved it! I didn’t tell Laura about my secret vanilla bean ingredient here, and she spent the entire dinner guessing what the flavor was. I finally told her, and she was like, “That’s it!” Combined with the tart green apples and the nutty flavor of the roasted squash, the vanilla bean seeds really add a fun background flavor. Give it a shot!
I highly recommend checking out SLO Food Group’s website for real vanilla beans. In addition to a variety of vanilla beans, Shawn also stocks a selection of dried mushrooms as well as premium exotic spices from around the world. The vanilla beans are shipped in vacuum-sealed bags, but the smell still permeates the package. I’m not kidding when I say that I could smell the beans from the package before I opened it! And the deep earthy smell of real vanilla is nothing short of amazing. Perfect for all sorts of sweet recipes…and now savory dishes, too!
Did you make this Apple and Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe at home? Leave a comment! Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog).
Looking for more vanilla recipes? Check out these favorites:
Apple and Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 4 medium acorn squash ~1-1¼ pounds each
- 4 Tbsp olive oil divided
- 2 cups wild rice
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 medium yellow yellow onion diced
- 3 celery stalks diced
- 1 cup corn fresh or frozen
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp fresh sage minced
- 1 pound ground pork
- ½ tsp kosher salt plus more for roasting squash
- ¼ tsp pepper plus more for roasting squash
- 2 medium green apples peeled and diced
- 2 Tahitian vanilla beans sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Using a serrated knife, slice each acorn squash lengthwise; remove seeds. (Tip: Acorn squash have very thick skins and a serrated knife makes it easier to cut the squash in half.)
- Place squash cut-side up on a baking sheet; brush the tops and insides of the squash with 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper on top of each squash and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until flesh is fork-tender.
- Meanwhile, place the wild rice and chicken stock in a medium saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Once water begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover pan with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer (without stirring) until rice has absorbed most of the stock (~30-40 minutes).
- Place the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, corn, garlic and sage; sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until vegetables have softened slightly.
- Add the ground pork, salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until pork is fully cooked (~10-12 minutes).
- Add cooked rice, green apples and vanilla bean seeds; stir until well combined.
- Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
- Fill the squash halves with the filling (~1 cup per squash half) and roast for another 15-18 minutes at 325°F.