I’ve been cooking my way through my latest cookbook obession, Around My French Table (by author Dorie Greenspan). I’ve made a dozen or so recipes; they’ve all been delightful, and definite do-agains. And then this one came along.
Oh. My. Guh’ness. This is SoupAddict’s favorite of favorites.
This recipe takes simple, savory flavors, and packages it in an absolutely darling presentation. Will this be on the Thanksgiving table? That would be, yesyesyes.
Start with a pumpkin. Not too big, not too small (3-4 pounds). You can use either a field pumpkin or a pie pumpkin (with jack-o’-lantern carving season over, pie pumpkins will be easier to find). Or any kind of edible round squash. If you wanted to get real fancy-schmancy with your guests, you could make individual servings, using small acorn or largish sweet dumpling squashes.
Take bread, cut it into cubes, toast it. A French or Italian boule is delightful here. (Wonder Bread, not so much.) Stale bread is totally cool. (Moldy might be pushing it.)
Then take your favorite cheese and cube it, too. Cabot’s medium cheddar is on the left, Gruyere on the right. This time of year, my very favorite aged Gouda hits the local cheese markets: Reypenaer. This Gouda is so good, it makes me go all teary-eyed.
Which is kind of embarrassing at the grocery store. (SoupAddict would like to think she looks all tender and vulnerable when she gets teary-eyed, like Uma Thurman, but that’s just not the case. Plus, Uma Thurman probably doesn’t do such things at the grocery store. The woman killed Bill; she doesn’t cry over cheese.)
The next time I make this savory stuffed pumpkin, it will have Reypenaer in it. I’ll keep a box of Kleenex handy.
I happen to live near a fantastic local sausage making company, and scored this sweet Italian fennel concoction earlier this Fall. The thing about buying locally from small producers is that it’s not just hype or a fad: you can tell when folks love what they do — it shows in the food.
Speaking of loving what you do … I contributed my own homegrown fresh thyme and purple rocambole garlic to this recipe.
The pumpkin stuffing mixed and ready to stuff.
Mmmm, sticky, slimy, stringy pumpkin guts. Makes a girl hungry.
And as if the cheese and sausage and garlic weren’t good enough, there’s cream. You can be a party-pooper and use half-n-half. But I don’t wanna to hear nuthin’ about skim milk with this recipe. Might as well top it off with water.
No skim milk.
Awwww. I just want to pinch this punkin’s adorable little cheeks. But, despite a lot of looking, I couldn’t find cheeks, so I just patted it on the stem. Niiiice, punkin’.
After cooking is finished, use a spoon to carefully scrape the walls of the pumpkin to remove the roasted flesh, stirring it directly into the other melty, cheesy stuffing ingredients.
Oh. My. G’uhness
- 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
- 8 oz. sweet Italian sausage, cooked and drained
- About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- About 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- (Note: this is Dorie’s narrative below, with my comments sprinkled in. The original recipe calls for bacon instead of sausage.)
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot—which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky. (Note: SoupAddict did the bowl method, which worked out really, really well, as the bowl was a perfect fit and was completely portable.)
- Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
- Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, sausage, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper—you probably have enough salt from the sausage and cheese, but taste to be sure—and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little—you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It’s hard to go wrong here.)
- Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
- When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.
- To serve: You have a choice—you can either spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful, or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I’m a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls, it’s just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.
- To store: It’s really best to eat this as soon as it’s ready. However, if you’ve got leftovers, you can scoop them out of the pumpkin, mix them up, cover, and chill them; reheat them the next day.
- Other ideas: There are many ways to vary this arts-and-crafts project. Instead of bread, I’ve filled the pumpkin with cooked rice—when it’s baked, it’s almost risotto-like. And, with either bread or rice, on different occasions I’ve added cooked spinach, kale, chard, or peas (the peas came straight from the freezer). I’ve made it without bacon (a wonderful vegetarian dish), and I’ve also made it and loved, loved, loved it with cooked sausage meat; cubes of ham are also a good idea. Nuts are a great addition, as are chunks of apple or pear or pieces of chestnut.