Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin: Packed with Bread and Cheese

A friend of mine suggested I try this recipe, and I don't think I would have come accross it if it weren't for her, so thanks Carrie! This recipe was beyond delicious, with fresh, local pumpkin, sharp tasting Gouda cheese, cream, garlic and sourdough bread... You can't go wrong! This recipe hails from Dorie Greenspan, who has worked with famed chefs such as Julia Child, Pierre Hermé, (Paris's king of pastry) and Daniel Boulud (the famous French chef in America). She's also won six James Beard awards, and has written 10 cookbooks. Her blog is also quite wonderful. In other words, she's fabulous and she knows her stuff.

This baked pumpkin doesn't have a long, crazy list of ingredients but the end result will knock your socks off and leave your friends and family in awe, wondering how you did it. I suggest trying this for many reasons, but I especially loved this recipe because it gives new meaning to pumpkin recipes. This is an acutal pumpkin, not just pumpkin puree. I mean, when was the last time you baked a whole pumpkin? Maybe for some of you, it wasn't that long ago, but I've never done it... Until now! So check this out:

Step one, cut the top off of your pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and goo. Save your seeds though, you can bake them for a delicious and nutritious snack!
Step two, dice up some bread and some cheese. Then mix them with cream, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper. I also added some thyme.
Step three, stuff your pumpkin, put the lid back on and bake for two hours. Check for doneness after 90 minutes.
Step four, slice, serve and enjoy!
This is seriously one of my new favorite recipes, and it will be enjoyed numerous times throughout the Fall season. It looks and tastes fancy, but it's really no work at all. Please, please, please try this. You will not be sorry!

Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan
Makes 2 generous or 4 genteel servings

1 pumpkin, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
4 ounces stale bread, sliced thin, then cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 ounces cheese, such as Gruyere, Swiss, Blue, Cheddar or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2-4 cloves garlic (to taste), peeled, germ removed and coarsely chopped
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Either line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat or find a Dutch oven that's the same diameter as the pumpkin. (If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it will also stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot, which is a rustic, appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a sheet, you can present it free-standing, if it doesn't collapse in the oven. I was lucky this time.

Using a very sturdy knife, cut a cap off the top of the pumpkin. This isn't an easy job - I went around the top of the pumpkin with my knife at a 45-degree angle to get a nice size cap. Clear away any seeds and strings from the cap and hold it aside while you scoop out the seeds and filaments inside the pumpkin. (Hold onto this goop -- you can separate the seeds from the filaments and roast them.) Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper and put it on the sheet or in the casserole.

Now you have a choice, you can either toss the bread, cheese and garlic together in a bowl, then pack it into the pumpkin, or you can alternate layers of bread and cheese and scatter the garlic here and there. (I mixed everything together.) Either way, the filling should go into the pumpkin and fill it well. You might have a little too much filling or you might need to add to it -- it's hard to give exact amounts. Season the cream with salt, pepper and several gratings of fresh nutmeg and pour the cream 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 to get a feeling that they're moistened.

Put the cap back in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours -- check after 90 minutes -- or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbly and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. I removed the cap during the last 20 minutes or so of baking so that the top could brown.

As you can see, I cut the pumpkin into wedges, so we could cut a cube of pumpkin and have it with some of the stuffing, but you can also leave the pumpkin whole and use a big spoon to scoop out pumpkin and filling. You could even scrape the pumpkin into the filling and mix it all up.

Caution: If you want to spoon out the pumpkin and the filling or try mixing it, you better bake the pumpkin in a casserole because you'll need to support the sides.

Playing around: I think you could play around with the filling, adding bacon or ham, herbs (a little thyme might be nice) or nuts.

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