Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good, from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, is like a soft, fluffy cheese strata with bacon baked inside a pumpkin. It's one of those meals where you don't engage in a lot of analytical conversation, like, "Wow, the fresh nutmeg in the cream really complements the cave-aged Swiss." There's none of that. When you're elbow-deep in this oversized squash, the talk is mostly yums, grunts and eye rolling. It's all simple, rich, indulgent ingredients. But what's impressive is how well the whole thing is balanced.
The recipe is also completely malleable, meaning you could do eggplant and sausage or prosciutto and mozzarella. You could add vegetables like spinach or kale, or fruit like pear or pomegranate, or nuts or chestnuts. Remember to allow two hours for cooking.
(We had a bear of a time tracking down permission to reprint this recipe. Epicurious, which ran the recipe online, referred us to the cookbook publisher, Houghton Mifflin, who referred us to the Vatican. Finally, the Pope said it was okay.)
Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good
From: Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table
Makes: 2 very generous servings or 4 more genteel servings
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), coarsely chopped
4 slices 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
1. 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. 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 easy.
2. Using a very sturdy knife--and caution--cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin. 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.
3. Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper--you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure--and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled. 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.)
4. Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about two 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.
5. 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.
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6. 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.
"Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good" from AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE by Dorie Greenspan. Copyright © 2010 by Dorie Greenspan. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Follow Samantha Bonar @samanthabonar.