Five cookbooks, seven visits to the grocery store, 10 hours spent opening and closing the oven door.
Despite all the stress that comes along with putting on the annual family feast, a surprising high point emerged at Thanksgiving dinner last year: An all local stuffed pumpkin that stole the show, eclipsing the 14 pound turkey and, yes, even the mashed potatoes.
The ingredients were all gathered from the Phoenix Public Market and the shopping experience was, in all honesty, delightful. Pumpkins from Maya’s Farm, nine grain bread from Bread Basket, herbs from One Windmill Farm and cheese picked up from Fiscallini, add in some heavy cream picked up from Shamrock Farms and I had a fully vegetarian dish that gave me some Martha Stewart-style street cred.
It’s a surprisingly easy recipe – especially if you enlist a friend to carve out the pumpkin guts – and the Saturday morning spent at the Market brings out the positive community feeling despite the length of your shopping list.
Serves 6 (this will vary based on pumpkin size, the following is for a 6-pound pumpkin)
1 pumpkin, about 6 pounds
1/2 pound bread, sliced thinly and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 pound cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 pound swiss cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoon mild onions or scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon thyme
2/3 cup heavy cream
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or you can use a dutch oven or casserole dish. The pumpkin will retain its shape regardless of what you cook in it, however if you plan to serve it in slices it’s best to use the baking sheet.
Cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin and clean out the guts. Generously pepper the inside of the pumpkin and set in on the baking sheet or dish.
In a large bowl, toss the bread, cheese, garlic and herbs together. Add the nutmeg and some salt and pepper to the cream (go easy on the salt, however, as the cheese has plenty of salt on its own). Pour the cream mixture over the combined ingredients and toss well. You want the bread to be moist, but not swimming in cream.
Using your hands – or a spoon – stuff the ingredients into the pumpkin. You may have too much or too little as every pumpkin is different so adjust as necessary.
Place the cap back on the pumpkin and bake for 2 hours.
Check the pumpkin after 1 1/2 hours.
For the last 20 minutes of cooking time remove the cap so the ingredients can brown and any residual liquid bakes off.
The pumpkin is done when the ingredients are bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin can be easily pierced with a knife.
You can serve this in slices or, if you prefer, scrape the pumpkin meat away from the sides and mix in with the stuffing.
(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Around my French Table” cookbook)