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Pumpkin Stuffed with Bread, Cheese, Garlic & Cream

Upon first reading of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, I knew that this stuffed pumpkin would find its way onto our Thanksgiving table this year. It may be too late for yours, but there is always Hallowe’en, American Thanksgiving, Christmas or anytime in the next few months while the squashes are fresh and beautiful.

There are many variations to this, but I made it exactly as written (with Gruyère and chives) and it was such a great combination of ingredients that brought together the vegetable and stuffing to accompany the turkey. Mushrooms or other vegetables could be added, the bacon omitted and any flavourful cheese can be used. I was taking this to our dear family close by, so cooked it almost completely, then warmed it in the oven before serving. Serves 6

1 pumpkin, about 3 lbs.
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 lb. stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2″ chunks
1/4 lb. cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2″ chunks
4 garlic cloves (or to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and chopped
About 1/4 c. snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/3 c. heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Using a very sturdy knife, cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin, working the knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45º angle, cutting off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Remove the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside of the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it in a casserole just large enough to accommodate it.

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 – and pack the mixture 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, but the stuffing should be well moistened.

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours, checking 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 a knife. 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.

To serve, either scoop out the pumpkin and the stuffing with a big spoon, or cut the whole thing into wedges, as pictured here.

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