I’ve been having a great fall teaching classes and testing out endless butternut squash/apple/turnip/pear/carrot/sweet potato/parsnip/pumpkin combinations in soups, gratins, purees, and stew-like creations. I had a hard time deciding what to share with you before TurkeyDay, the biggest food event of the year.
But the other day I cracked open Dorie Greenspan’s brilliant new cookbook Around My French Table for the first time. This is exactly the book I wish I’d written. Like her perfect Baking from my Home to Yours, the recipes are simple, versatile and flavorful, and the pages are saturated with spectacular pictures and peppered with “bonne idées” – good ideas to make each recipe your own. She takes the mystery out of fabulous French cooking from the simplest home meal to the most intimidating pastries. And so many of her recipes have blunt, adorable names – Spur-of-the Moment Vegetable Soup, Salmon and Potatoes in a Jar.
But once I saw “Pumpkins Stuffed With Everything Good,” I knew I’d found my starting point. The concept, taken from generations of French home cooking, is sheer perfection: so cozy, beautiful, and delicious. As Dorie says, “an outline is about the best you can do with this dish” – because there’s so many ways you can, and often must, vary it. She says she never makes it the same way twice.
It’s sort of like a fondue, only you spoon out the contents not skewer them. The concepts all depend on what you like, and the best thing about it is that you can serve it as an appetizer or a side dish on the Thanksgiving table, perfect for all friends and family. You can even easily make it vegetarian if that’s what makes you happy.
Here’s what you have to do:
You take a bake-able pumpkin, like sugar or Cinderella and cut off the top
scoop out the stringy stuff and the seeds (to toast) (or caramelize)
then crush some garlic, and maybe chop some herbs
fill it with your favorite chunks of bread, cheeses, herbs and a bit of bacon or pancetta or similar if you like
Pour in some cream
And bake it!
That’s it! And this is what you get in the end…
Then you scoop this with some of the pumpkin meat on to small plates. Together with a good glass of white wine and you’re in heaven after one taste. I’m not exaggerating.
Full, concise recipe after the jump!
And when you have leftover goodness (which you almost definitely will), just stuff it in ramekins. Or if it’s the middle of February and your pumpkin supplier has run out of pumpkins (which they almost definitely will) just make these instead.
Ramekins with Leftover Goodness
Contents of bread/cheese filling (see recipe above)
6-12 ramekins (depending on how much filling you have)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Fill ramekins with your favorite combination of cheeses , 1-inch chunks of bread, and crumbled bacon as noted in the stuffed pumpkin recipe above
3. Add a teaspoon or so of herbs if you like (i.e., rosemary or thyme)
4. Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes
5. Serve as a starter with a very small salad of mixed greens.
Pumpkins Stuffed with Everything Good – Our Way
- 8 strips bacon (¼ cup shallots may be substituted for vegetarian version
- ¼ pound stale bread cut into cubes
- ¼ pound cheese, such as gruyere, emmental, cheddar, smoked gouda, asiago, parmesan, or any combination, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 3 cloves of garlic pressed or minced
- 1/8-1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions
- 2 teaspoons or more fresh herbs (i.e., parsley, rosemary, thyme)
- ½ cup dried cranberries (optional)
- 1 sugar or Cinderella pumpkin weighing about 3 pounds
- 1 cup or more heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Sautee shallots until they are crispy (about 15 minutes), or fry bacon until crispy. Set aside.
- Combine chunks of bread and cheese, along with dried cranberries (this is optional, but will add beautiful color to the fondue). Season with salt and pepper.
- Add bacon or shallots to the bread and cheese mixture. Combine well.
- Add any herbs you choose, along with the chives or scallions, and garlic. Toss well.
- Using a very sturdy knife, cut off the cap of the pumpkin, just as you would a jack-o-lantern.
- Scoop out the stringy pumpkin and the seeds and generously salt the inside of the pumpkin.
- Pack the filling tightly into the pumpkin (there shouldn’t be any air pockets).
- Pour in cream until the bread mixture is saturated and there is a bit of liquid on top (but be careful not to have the bread “swimming” in heavy cream).
- Put the cap back on and bake until the pumpkin is soft, about 60-90 minutes. Check the pumpkin after 45 minutes to see how soft it is. Continue baking until the ingredients are bubbling and the meat of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Do not let it burn, or the pumpkin will turn black and collapse as it cools. You don’t want all your good work ruined!
- Place a large spatula under your creation and move it gently to a beautiful platter.
- Serve as a side dish or an appetizer on small plates.