Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baked, Stuffed Pumpkin

Last winter my brother-in-law Mike introduced me to a new foodie podcast (Splendid Table). So, of course, I had to listen to all the past episodes. One of the autumn guests was Dorie Greenspan talking about her baked, stuffed pumpkin. A little pie pumpkin stuffed with cheese, bread, and cream and baked. could that be bad!!! I wanted to make one!

The only bad thing was that when I was listening to the podcast, pumpkins were already out of season! Not a baking pumpkin in sight. So, I set a calendar reminder for the following October. So, last week, I got my iPhone reminder to make a baked, stuffed pumpkin (I freely admit how nerdy I am).

There is very little active prep time for this recipe - really only hollowing out a pumpkin and toasting up some bread if you don't already have some stale bread on hand. And, that's about it! The recipe calls for a 3 - 5 pound pumpkin. When I had already hollowed the pumpkin out, I had no clue how much it weighed. Thank goodness you buy them by the pound, so I could just consult my grocery store receipt! It looked like the standard pie pumpkin was about 3 - 3.5 pounds.This dish is best served table side. How impressive and elegant to serve your dinner out of a pumpkin!!!

Baked, Stuffed Pumpkin

Makes 2 very generous servings
1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 slices stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
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

***The link to her recipe has some great alternate stuffing ideas as well as storage and serving tips.***
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil [be warned: if moving the cooked pumpkin to a serving tray, it will be a little tricky!].
Using a very sturdy knife, cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin. 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. Scoop out 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, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled (don't be shy about stuffing the little guy!). Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Play it by ear - you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. 
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, 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, very carefully bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter (I used two spatulas to maneuver the pump.

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