Tomorrow marks the first day of October, and with it my favorite month of the year. Great things traditionally seem to happen to me in October (I am crossing my fingers to keep that tradition rolling!), and there are so many aspects of the season that come alive. The air is cool, yet not bone-chillingly cold yet – save for the one year we had a major snowstorm right before Halloween. We build a lot of fires in our fireplace, while outside the leaves are at their peak shades of burnt oranges and reds. The Holidays are right around the corner, so I know I’ll get to see my extended family soon. Food becomes more savory, with a lot of spice added in, and there are pumpkins everywhere…especially in my kitchen.
This recipe is my take on Dorie Greenspan’s “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good” (aptly named). It may look complicated, but in reality, the hardest part of the process is carving the top out (I am always afraid I will cut myself – Ouch!). I first made this for a “Friendsgiving” a couple of years ago, and while the idea was initially met with raised eyebrows, the end result was a success. Since then, I’ve been toying with what Dorie herself calls an ‘outline’, as you can never guarantee the exact size of a pumpkin, how long it will take to bake, or the consistency of bread and cheese depending on the type you decide to use. What I know for sure is that the pumpkin always comes out of the oven looking and tasting scrumptious. This has by far become one of my favorite things to serve for guests; the look of surprise that comes over them when this hits the table is reason enough. I highly recommend trying this for your next dinner party, or as an addition to your Thanksgiving feast (It’ll be here before you know it!)!
- 1 2-3 Pound Sugar Pie Pumpkin
- ½ Cup Crusty White Bread, Cut into ¼-Inch Chunks
- ½ Cup Seven Grain Bread, Cut into ¼-Inch Chunks
- ½ Cup Diced Gruyere Cheese (1/4-Inch Chunks)
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 4 Slices Bacon, Cooked, Drained & Chopped
- ½ Cup Fresh Baby Spinach Leaves
- ½ Teaspoon Chopped Fresh Rosemary
- ½ Teaspoon Chopped Fresh Thyme
- Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
- ⅓ - ½-Cup Fresh Heavy Cream
- Salt & Pepper
- Center a rack in your oven, and preheat it to 350 degrees.
- Lightly grease a Dutch Oven or Casserole that is slightly larger than the size of your pumpkin (I use a 2-Quart Le Creuset).
- Using a sturdy knife, cut a 'cap' out of the top of the pumpkin, the way you would if you were carving a Jack-O-Lantern. Remove the seeds from the pumpkin and either discard or set aside (I like to roast them with olive oil and sea salt, on a sheet pan next to the pumpkin, as an added bonus). Hollow the pumpkin out, so that all of the fibrous, stringy, pieces are gone. Salt & Pepper the inside of the pumpkin, and place it inside your cooking vessel.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread, cheese, herbs, and nutmeg. At this point, I add about 1 tablespoon of the cream to the mixture as well, and start to smoosh everything together.
- Pack the mixture into the pumpkin, alternating splashes of cream as you go. I really like to pack it in tightly, so I found that this method works best for me, so as not to have all of the cream floating at the top, with a dry bottom; you want it to have a moist consistency overall.
- Rest the cap on top, and place the pumpkin in the oven for approximately 2 hours - checking after 90 minutes - or until the filling is bubbling and you can easily pierce the skin of the pumpkin.
- Serve by slicing pieces of the pumpkin (It's best to do this after the pumpkin has cooled), or by scooping out large spoonfuls of the mixture, ensuring you scrape the sides to get the pumpkin 'meat' too.
* I've found that using heartier bread (i.e., has a thick crust) works well here. The inside of the pumpkin cooks up soft, so I like to make sure there is a blend of textures throughout.
* I prefer my pumpkin tightly packed, and it was a very happy accident that the filling bubbled over and out to form the peak pictured here. Whether you like it like this too, or would want to serve it looser, the outcome is consistently delicious!