Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
This recipe courtesy of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Shortly after I was given this recipe, I started keeping a list of whom I'd made it for-- because I loved it so much, I was sure that if I didn't keep track, I'd end up serving the dish to the same people over and over. The idea for it came from my friend Helene Samuel's sister, Catherine, whose husband grows pumpkins on his farm just outside Lyon. Catherine sent me a charming outline of the recipe, and as soon as I'd baked my first pumpkin, I realized that an outline is about the best you can do with this dish. It's a hollowed-out pumpkin stuffed with bread, cheese, garlic and cream, and since pumpkins come in unpredictable sizes, cheeses and breads differ, and baking times depend on how long it takes for the pumpkin to get soft enough to pierce with a knife, being precise is impossible.
As Catherine said when she turned this family favorite over to me, " I hope you will put the recipe to good use, knowing that it's destined to evolve... and maybe even be improved."
Well, I've certainly been putting it to good use, and it has evolved, although I'm not sure that it's been improved, since every time I make it, it's different, but still wonderful. My guess is that you'll have the same feeling once you start playing around with this "outline." See Bonne Idee for some hints on variations.
And speaking of playing around, you might consider serving this alongside the Thanksgiving turkey or even instead of it -- omit the bacon and you've got a great vegetarian main course. Makes 2 very generous or 4 more genteel servings.
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, an 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.
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.
There are many ways to vary this arts-and-crafts project. Instead of bread, I've filled the pumpkin with cooked rice-- when it's baked, it's almost risotto-like. And, with either bread or rice, on different occasions I've added cooked spinach, kale, chard, or peas (the peas came straight from the freezer). I've made it without bacon (a wonderful vegetarian dish), and I've also made it and loved, loved, loved it with cooked sausage meat; cubes of ham are also a good idea. Nuts are a great addition, as are chunks of apple.