Sometimes, the best plans just don't work out. I was going to make this recipe last weekend, when pumpkins were super easy to find everywhere, but a "little project" at work ended up taking over 28 hours of my time, and there went my weekend. Trying to find a pumpkin that's just the right size AFTER Halloween wasn't quite as easy, but I managed to find a good one at a natural foods store not too far from our house (and I'd bet that most of the pumpkin patches/farms still have plenty as well). I had never eaten pumpkin like this before, but I'll definitely be doing it again!
Pumpking Stuffed with Everything Good
- 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¼ pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- ¼ pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
- 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
- About ¼ cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- About ⅓ cup heavy cream
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.
- Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven 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.
- 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 top 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. (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.
I skipped the nutmeg on accident, but it still came out really tasty. Keep in mind a 3 pound pumpkin is pretty small, you may need to double the recipe for a "normal" sized pumpkin. Some suggestions from the bottom of the original recipe: