I had an NPR driveway moment recently - sat and listened to the end of a story about a recipe for stuffing pumpkin. By coincidence I was on my way home to cook having invited a male friend over for dinner - phone rang - "OK", he asked, "what wine shall I bring." On impulse I tossed off -"Oh, something to go with pumpkin."
"You're joking" - it was a statement that held both a plea and a hope.
"Nope" - the devil in me rose to the surface. "Definitely something to go with pumpkin."
And then on my part after he hung up - "oh shoot - I said pumpkin", and I hoisted my shopping bag with the lovingly selected salmon fillets into the house.
No one has ever accused me of being a timid cook! I put the salmon in the fridge aware that if the idea stirring in my brain was a total disaster the fillet could be on the grill in minutes.
Farmers' Market downtown on Wednesday I had bought two beautiful little sugar pumpkins. I had cooked farro grain leftover from the night before. A deep rummage into the fridge produced a very good Fontina cheese, bacon ( a rarity in my house but the grand kids will be over for breakfast Sunday) green onions, half and half. My herb pots were resplendent with thyme and I had nutmeg in the spice drawer. Andiamo! Let's go.
Stuffed Baked Pumpkin
Two main course servings, four side servings. Prep time 30 minutes maximum. Cook time 1hour 20 minutes.
- Pumpkin weighing ~ 1.8 pounds
- 3/4 C cooked grains - rice, barley, farro
- 2 oz. good Fontina cheese - in 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 clove garlic - coarsely chopped
- 4 small scallions - discard most of the stalk - coarsely chop white through pale green part
- 4 strips nice bacon - I used an applewood smoked thick slice - cooked until crisp, drained, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1/4 Cup half and half
- Maldon Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly ground nutmeg
Cut a cap at the stem end off the pumpkin, scrape out the seeds* and stringy bits
Fold the onion, garlic, cheese, thyme and bacon into the grains. Add a grind of pepper, and check before adding salt - if the bacon is very salty you need to go easy on the salt.
Spoon the mixture into the pumpkin - pressing down so that you have a compact stuffing. Pour the half and half over the top and sprinkle with nutmeg. Put the cap on top and bake on a baking sheet for 1 hour 20 minutes.
Slice to serve. I had wilted spinach as a side and a crisp apple, fennel salad.
All I can say is that my dinner guest practically purred his way through dinner - eyed the remaining pumpkin and asked "How long would it take for you to bake another one. Is this something I could make?" And for the record the rich 2006 Oregon Pinot Gris he brought was perfect!
I'm already planning my next version - will be with rice, crispy pancetta, sweated leeks and nuggets of Spanish chorizo.
*STOP! Don't throw out the pumpkin seeds. Rub them in a clean cloth to remove fibre. Dry. Spread on a baking sheet , sprinkle with a little chili powder. bake at 300 for 40 minutes. Cool and store in a jar. Tremendous nutritional content.