Halloween means pumpkins. The two are synonymous. So what better to serve yesterday than stuffed pumpkin?
This is a seriously impressive-looking dish to set on the table and deserves to be the centrepiece, even if you are using it as a side dish, rather than the main event. It works well as both, depending on numbers. I used a 3.5kg muskat pumpkin and it easily fed four people for two days (first as the main dish and then as a side).
- 1 (3-pound) pumpkin
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/4 pound Gruyere, Emmenthal, or cheddar cheese (or a mix of all three), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
- 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or sliced scallions
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme ( I would actually use a bit more than this, perhaps double)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the center of the oven. Martha says to line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or use a Dutch oven that is slightly larger in diameter than your pumpkin (in which case, you will need to serve your pumpkin from the Dutch oven, as it may stick, but it will keep its shape better this way). I lined a baking tray with aluminium foil and then baking parchment and it worked just fine. A Dutch oven (if this term is new to you) is basically a sturdy cooking pot with a lid, usually made from cast iron.
- Using a sharp, sturdy knife, cut off top of pumpkin, working around the top with the knife inserted at a 45-degree angle to cut off enough to make it easy to work inside the pumpkin; keep the lid. Remove seeds and strings from cap and pumpkin (make sure you get them all out…). Season inside of pumpkin generously with salt and pepper. Place on prepared baking sheet or in Dutch oven; set to one side while you make the filling.
- In a large bowl, toss together bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, chives, and thyme until well combined. Pack the mixture into the pumpkin; it should be well filled but not overstuffed. You may need to add some bread and cheese or some of the filling may not be necessary to use – it depends on the size and shape of the pumpkin you use. In a small bowl, stir the cream and nutmeg to combine. Pour this over the filling, which should be moist but not swimming in cream — you may need to use more or less accordingly.
- Place the lid back on your pumpkin and pop into your oven; cook until the filling is bubbling and the pumpkin flesh is tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking until liquid is slightly evaporated and top of filling is browned, 20 to 30 minutes more.
- Carefully transfer the finished pumpkin to a serving platter (or serve in Dutch oven, if using) and serve. You will need a large sharp knife to slice the pumkin.