How could you not stuff a pumpkin with everything good? Especially when it’s a week before Halloween and you already have foot-long icicles hanging from your roof.
I met Dorie Greenspan last year in Austin. I recognized her son first, sitting on the arm of her chair in the hotel lounge. They had been (and still are) opening a series of pop-up cookie shops called Beurre & Sel, and I had more than a little cookie crush. Whomever I was with – someone blocked out of my memory by the brightness of that Dorie sun – introduced me, and we had a short chat, and I smiled all the way back to my room.
The next evening I was at a party – with about 500 other people – when I spotted Dorie chatting with Jacques Pépin a few yards away. She turned and caught my eye, and the two of them came through the crowd, directly toward me. I assumed she was coming to say hi to someone standing in my vicinity but no – she had come over to say hi, and ask me how my day was. And then I met Jacques, who plopped an ice cube into his glass of white wine. And I may have pinched myself, or jabbed myself in the leg with a fork, and possibly skipped back to my hotel, I can’t remember.
I came home and immediately bought Around My French Table and it sat by my bed, to be occasionally flipped through but mostly to act as a sort of second end table-slash-laundry stool. And I watched as people cooked from it and posted about it, and I kept meaning to follow suit but didn’t. And the one recipe that was at the same time the most appealing and unappealing was the whole roasted pumpkin filled with everything good. Because how lovely is a soft, roasted pumpkin that has caved in on itself and its bread-cheese-bacon filling? Except that I have never been a huge fan of pumpkin. Then again, I’ve always associated it with pie – if I think of it as a winter squash, I love it. (That’s right, I don’t like pumpkin pie. I think I may be the only one.)
So this week as the boys sat at the kitchen table and hollowed out pumpkins – small sugar pumpkins, those smaller, smoother Jack-o-Lantern-looking ones – I decided to save one from getting a face, and instead stuffed it with everything good, and baked it. The idea is that the squash gets soft as it roasts, and you scoop it out along with the cheesy, bready innards, almost like a gooey gratin.
And it was easy – and it was good. Next time, I think I’ll bake a curry in the pumpkin – really, you could bake or braise anything that goes with squash inside one.
Roasted Pumpkin Filled with Everything Good
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
1 sugar pumpkin, about 2-3 pounds
canola or olive oil
salt and pepper
3-4 slices (about 1/4 pound) stale bread, torn into chunks
1 cup (about 1/4 pound) grated or chunked cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, aged cheddar, or a combination
2–4 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tsp. fresh thyme (optional)
1/3 cup (ish) half & half or whipping cream
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the top off the sugar pumpkin, like you would if you were carving a Jack-o-lantern, and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the inside with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put it on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet and put it into the oven while you prepare the stuffing.
In a bowl, toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, thyme, half & half, some salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Remove the pumpkin from the oven (if you put it in) and stuff the bread mixture into it, letting it overflow a bit, drizzling any cream in the bottom of the bowl over top. Put the lid on and put the pumpkin back into the oven for about an hour.
Remove the lid and bake for another half hour, until the pumpkin is soft and slumped over, and the top is golden and crispy. To serve, scoop out the soft pumpkin with the filling.