This is my first foray into cooked pumpkin, that is, real, whole cooked pumpkin. Like most cooks, I’ve always opted for Libby’s canned version for breads and pies.
Frankly, I could never figure out which pumpkins were for cooking and which were for carving into jack-o-lanterns and setting out on the front porch. Apparently, there are many varieties of pumpkins, and for our purposes, the sugar, or pie, pumpkin is the one to cook with. It has a thin skin and a finer grained flesh that makes for better eating.
I cooked several pumpkins this last weekend, two from the local pumpkin patch and one from Trader Joe’s. The Trader Joe’s pumpkin was labeled “pie pumpkin.” I stuffed them using a recipe I adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s, “Around My French Table.” Perhaps it’s ironic that a French cookbook would yield a recipe for a fruit that originated in North America, but let’s face it, the world has become one big village.
I love the shape of a pumpkin for baking–it’s round and makes a perfect casserole for whatever you put into it. I stuck pretty close to Dorie’s basic recipe, but she states that you can resort to a multitude of variations, such as using rice or quinoa in place of bread, or adding different vegetables, meats and/or cheeses.
Once you’ve baked one pumpkin, you’ll recognize the possibilities. It’s pretty foolproof: all you have to do is clean out the pumpkin, stuff it and bake at 350 degrees until a knife pierces easily into its flesh. Slice it in wedges to serve, either as a side dish or as a main entree. Without meat this would make a great vegetarian dinner.
Consider this as a side dish for a small Thanksgiving dinner. How cool would it be to bring a whole, stuffed pumpkin to the table?
Dorie’s Stuffed Pumpkin
1 sugar or pie pumpkin, about 3 pounds
1/4 lb. stale bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/4 lb. cheese, (I used Gruyere, but you can use cheddar) cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 strips bacon, cooking till crisp and chopped
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 T. fresh thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin and clean out the seeds and strings. Season the inside liberally with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet lined with foil.
Toss bread, cheese, garlic, bacon and herbs together. Season with salt and pepper and pack into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be filled to the very top. Add the nutmeg to the cream and pour it over the top of the stuffing. Place the cap on top and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours, or until the stuffing is bubbling and the pumpkin’s flesh can be easily pierced with a knife. Take the top off the pumpkin during the last 20 minutes to allow the stuffing to brown.
When the pumpkin is finished cooking, carefully slice it into wedges and serve.
Note: The second time I made this (shown in the photos) I steamed some fresh spinach, squeezed out the extra liquid and added it to the stuffing.