You know, there are times when- in spite of all your good intentions and planning- outside event conspire to bite you in the ass.
Yesterday was one of those days for me. I had planned to make and serve my new recipe for Stuffed and Roasted Pumpkin on Tuesday, and then blog about it on Wednesday. But Tuesday got a way from me a bit and by the time I started preparing my mise en place together, it became obvious that it was too dark in my tiny kitchen to take photographs with natural light. FOILED!
I decided to put the project off a day so that we could have good pictures for the blog. And woke up Wednesday morning to a gloomy gray, cloud-covered sky. That lasted the whole damned day. FOILED AGAIN! This time, I decided to soldier on.
The thing about a recipe such as this one is that you don’t really need a recipe. All you really need is the idea– then you can run with it and make it your own. It’s sort of like Thanksgiving stuffing. You find a version you like and then you tweak it to make it your own.
So here’s my version of a Stuffed and Roasted pumpkin.
Step 1: There is really no way around this. You are going to have to cut the top off your pumpkin Jack O’Lantern-style (reserving the lid) and clean it out. There is not much i this world I hate as much as cleaning out pumpkin guts. That feeling of the pumpkin juice drying on your forearms is just too much to be bear. But it must be bourn, I guess, if you want to eat a stuffed pumpkin. Scrape out all the seeds and stringy stuff- I find it helps to think really hard about something else while you’re doing it.
Rinse the pumpkin inside and out and then pat dry with paper towels.
Step 2: Assemble your stuffing ingredients. You will need bread (preferably day-old) cut into one inch cubes. I use a round Italian loaf from Harris Teeter, La Brea Bakery brand, I think. I actually cubed my bread the night before because the drier your bread is, the most deliciousness it will absorb.
Pretty much everything else is optional, depending on our taste. For this stuffing I used:
1 large Honey Crisp apples, diced
1/4 pound of gruyere cheese, cubed
6 ounces of pancetta, died and browned
a handful of dried cranberries
four or five sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
one minced garlic clove
Throw everything in a large bowl along with your bread crumbs and mix well. I used my hands because, after spending half an hour elbow deep in a pumpkin, I was up for anything.
I DID NOT add salt to the stuffing mixture. There was plenty of salt in the pancetta and the gryuere to season the whole recipe, but I did add a few twists of fresh ground black pepper.
Step 3: Stuff everything into your pumpkin. You can really cram it in there, sense there are no food safety issues here as there are with stuffing a turkey. Fuller is better.
Step 4: You’ll need to add some kind of liquid to your stuffing at this point. I used one pint of heavy cream, because that’s what Dorie Greenspan used, and what my friend Sean used when he made a version of this last weekend. Sean referred to the results as a savory bread pudding stuffed in a pumpkin, and that was the result I was going for here. You could also use 1 1/2 -2 cups chicken stock here, or even vegetable stock. You want to add enough liquid to moisten the stuffing very well, but you don’t want it to be soupy.
Step 5: Pop the reserved pumpkin top back on and roast the pumpkin on a baking sheet at 350 for two hours, removing the cap for the last ten minutes to allow a bit of the liquid to evaporate. You wan the pumpkin to be fork-tender but not collapsing when it is done.
Now, by this point in my cooking process, my kitchen was almost completely dark. I couldn’t even get a bad picture with every light in the kitchen on. So I am going to rather shamelessly swipe my friend Sean’s picture of his version of this recipe so you can see what this thing will look like when it comes out of the oven. We used very different kinds of pumpkins but the idea is the same.
Now here’s the fun part. Doris Greenspan says that you can either use a big spoon to stir everything together, scraping the pumpkin from the side and mixing it into the pumpkin like I did (delicious but not so pretty) or you can slice the pumpkin the way Sean did. Sean is a braver man than me.
Obviously, Sean’s way makes for a much better presentation. Who could be unimpressed by this?
My friend Susie made another version of this recipe and posted it on her blog. She is the former editor of the only cooking magazine that matters, Fine Cooking Magazine, and is a much better planner than I, as all her photos are lovely and taken long before sundown. Also, she and I used the same kind of pumpkin– the Long Island Cheese pumpkin, and you should pop over there just to see how mine would have looked if I had been born more organized.
The Stuffed and Roasted pumpkin was absolutely delicious. My family was skeptical until they tasted it– it is positively ambrosial! The combination of the salty pancetta and the sweet apples was sublime. And the gruyere! Oh my Lord, the gruyere!
This would make a great Thanksgiving side dish, although I encourage you to try it at least once before then as a confidence booster.