Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pumpkin stuffed with everything good

This weekend's cooking project was Dorie Greenspan's recipe called Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good.  Arizona Tammy sent it to me by way of npr.  Needing a nice pumpkin was a great excuse (as if one is needed) to head to the Durham Farmers' Market early Saturday morning (well, not too early since the proverbial frost is now on the proverbial pumpkins here in Durham and we decided to first make a stop at Rue Cler for egg and cheese sandwiches and coffee).
Ok, egg, cheese and bacon sandwiches.  This photo was taken in August.  Yesterday's sandwich wasn't as good because the yellow was cooked solid.  Just one Southern girl's opinion on how to cook a fried egg.  Still quite tasty, though.  Melted gruyère cheese is divine.  And they make their own bread at Rue Cler.
Anyway, I found the perfect pumpkin at Brinkley's Farm.
I brought him home and set about scooping out his seeds and innards.  Next came the cutting, chopping and grating.  First, stale bread leftover from my breadmaking last week.
Then cheese, thyme, nutmeg, green onions, and garlic.
After the bacon (I fried up extra for the Ex-Ex who always has to sample) was fried up crisp, I was ready to assemble and stuff.
Heavy cream is poured into the pumpkin to moisten the stuffing and then into the oven it goes for two hours.
After a few tastes along the way, I declared it done and scooped it out and served it up for dinner.
It was really good. 
Very nice with a glass of The Chancellor, a German wine, sold exclusively on our continent at Wine Authorities.  No kidding.
Schäfer, "The Chancellor", Rheinhessen, Germany, 2009

Kansler, Riesling, Kerner
The Schafer winery is dark, wet and cold. Perfect for creating crisp elegant whites of character. We tasted through the usual suspects like Riesling and Sylvaner, when they presented this odd white blend called Trivini (three grapes). Clearly it was a stunning value with elegant flavors, but oh that name. Turns out there are other wines in the US with similar names so the Schäfers have not done much with it here. We loved the wine and proposed a new name based on the main grape varietal, Kanzler. Meet the newly named Chancellor of white wine. This variety is a crossing of Müller-Thurgau x Silvaner in 1927 to produce floral, delicate aroma white wines. Success!

This recipe is a keeper.  Maybe it will show up on the Thanksgiving table...

The BFF showed up to borrow my DVD of Chocolat (another nice treat on a chilly evening) just as the pumpkin came out of the oven.  She has impeccable timing, n'est-ce pas?  She couldn't stay for dinner because she had needed to get groceries home (can't have melted ice cream in a puddle in the party van, can we?), so I sent her home with a nice warm bowl of it.  She approved, as did the Ex-Ex.  He had two helpings.  Always a good sign.  I may have leftovers for breakfast this morning...

Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good
(from Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, Around My French Table)
This is copied straight from the transcript found on npr.  I think Dorie's directions are so easy to follow and I like the way she "talks."  My notes are in italics.)

Makes 2 very generous servings

1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (I used a combination of baby swiss and Gruyère-- Gruyère and Emmenthal are ridiculously expensive here)
2-4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and chopped (I used more- can you have too much??)
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions (I used thinly sliced green onions)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/3 c. heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350˚F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper or find a Dutch over with a diameter that's just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin.  If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot-- which is an appealingly homey way to serve it.  If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn't so easy.  However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I've always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I've been lucky. (I baked it on a parchment-lined pan.  Less cleanup!)
Using a very sturdy knife- and caution- cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o'-lantern).  It's easiest to work your knife around the tip of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle.  You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin.  Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin.
Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.  Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon and herbs together in a bowl.  Season with pepper- you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure - and pack the mix into the pumpkin.  The pumpkin should be well filled- you might have a little too much filling or you might need to add to it.  Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it 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 them nicely moistened. (But it's hard to go wrong here.)
Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours- check after 90 minutes- or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.  Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully- it's heavy, hot and wobbly- bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.
You have choices:  you can cut wedges of the pumpkin and filling; you can 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, and 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 or wedges, 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.
Greenspan's Stuffing Ideas:
There are many ways to vary this arts-and-crafts project.  Instead of bread, I've filled the pumpkin with cooked rice (I am thinking red Camargue rice maybe)- 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, and I've made and loved, loved, loved it with cooked sausage meat; cubes of ham are another good idea.  Nuts are a great addition, as are chunks of apple or pear or pieces of chestnut.

Bon appétit à tous!

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