Savory Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe
Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan calls this dish Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. Find out why.
See that photo up there? The one you wish was scratch and sniff? We'll let you in on the recipe after you take our pumpkin pop quiz. Here it is:
When I see a pumpkin, I think:
- A) About the salty goodness of roasted pumpkin seeds.
- B) That I need to stock up on canned pureed pumpkin for pie.
- C) How fantastic it would taste if I stuffed it with bread, cheese, garlic, bacon and heavy cream then baked it.
If you answered "C," thank Dorie Greenspan. Dorie Greenspan is, among many other wonderful things, a food writer, blogger and James Beard Award-winning cookbook author. She has very literally written the book on baking. But when her friend Hélène mentioned that her sister had a great recipe for stuffed pumpkin, she was underwhelmed at best. "I kept saying, 'That's nice,'" Greenspan says. "It wasn't like, Get me that recipe immediately!" But she made it and loved it so much she made it for her friends. And they enjoyed it so much she started keeping a list of the guests she'd made it for so she didn't make it for the same people multiple times (though surely they wouldn't have minded). Then she included the recipe in her book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours and introduced the rest of the world to nature's edible orange serving bowl.
"People aren't accustomed to eating pumpkin as a vegetable," Greenspan says. "It's either pureed in a pie or mixed with roasted vegetables at Thanksgiving. But pumpkin isn't sweet; it has an earthy vegetal flavor. It balances out the rich cream and cheese in this dish like pasta does with sauce."
Unlike most recipes that tell you what to do and when to do it, Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good is a blueprint at best. Those great orange gourds come in all shapes and sizes, so exact measurements aren't possible and — though it boggles the mind — some people don't like cream and cheese. "I no longer use the recipe the way Hélène and her sister use the recipe; I use it as a jumping off point for whatever I have in my cupboard, refrigerator or vegetable bowl," says Greenspan, who does a version with rice, sausage and either spinach, kale, chard or mustard greens, and often adds apple to other versions for a hint of sweetness. "When you make it the first time, you'll understand the mechanics, then it becomes yours, you feel confident about it and you can make it with the flavors you, your family and your friends enjoy. "You know," she says as an afterthought, "I can see a day-after-Thanksgiving turkey chili going in the pumpkin. Wouldn't that be good?" Why yes. Yes it would.
Deciding which ingredients suit your tastes is the first of three decisions you'll make throughout the recipe process. The second is whether you'll bake the pumpkin in a casserole dish — where it might stick but will keep its shape — or go free form on a lined baking sheet. And the third is whether you'll slice and serve straight from the pumpkin or scoop the pumpkin meat and ingredients together and mash, then serve. "It's delicious that way, but not as pretty," Greenspan says. "It's a different dish if you slice it and have chunks of pumpkin you cut out with each forkful. That way you really get that pumpkin texture and can see the construction."
However you slice it, the best part of the recipe is the ooh and aah moments when you set a big baked pumpkin on the table and everyone sits up to see what's inside. "If it collapses a little bit on one side, if it gets brown, if the insides bubble over, it's always beautiful," Greenspan says. "There aren't that many dishes you can say that about."
PUMPKIN STUFFED WITH EVERYTHING GOOD
- 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 2-inch chunks
- 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
- 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped (my addition)
- About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions (my addition)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (my addition)
- About 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
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.
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, 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 — 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.
How 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.
How to Store Leftovers
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.