The holidays are coming and the delight and/or pressure of serving many a worthy dish comes with it. As with all firehouses, this time of the years brings our families together to celebrate all things life has to offer outside of the fire service. Chief among them is food. What I offer you here is an impressive vessel that celebrates the season and many a mouth in a Holiday table-stealing stunner.
This is an essence a stuffing but cooked in a moisture-locking gourd instead of a casserole dish or Dutch oven. With this artisan style baking vessel imparting the orange-fleshed flavor, the advantages are many; one ‘pot’ cooking, no filling restrictions, serves many and has an easy clean up. This will take a permanent place in your holiday meal rotation.
A few after the fire critiques: As I stated above, your imagination is your only limitation with what you can stuff in here. Don't want rice; add quinoa, coucous, or cubed bread in its place. Remove the protein (sausage) and dairy to make it a vegetarian dish. You can even consider making it a sweet version as well... Oh, and the pumpkin travels. Wrap in aluminum foil on a baking sheet or large plate and take with you to your next holiday party. Simply reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through and serve.
Medium to Large Pumpkin (8-10 lbs.)
1-2 Cups of Rice, cooked
1 lb. of Sausage, cooked
1½ Cups of Cheese, cubed (Gruyère, Emmental or White Cheddar)
2 Cups Heavy Cream or Half-n-Half
4-6 Cloves of Garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. Thyme, minced
1 Tbsp. EVOO
1 tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
½ tsp. Smoked Paprika
½ tsp. Cayenne
Pepper and Salt
2 Baking Sheets
Parchment Paper or Slit Pads
Cast Iron Pan
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Carve a large enough hole into the top of the pumpkin to allow a large serving spoon to fit in. Remove the seeds, innards and top and reserve for later. Wipe down the pumpkin inside and out ensuring there are no strings. Season the inside of the gourd with salt and pepper. Combine the heavy cream, 1½ tsp. thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and reserve. Add the rice, sausage, cheese and cream mixture into the pumpkin and mix to combine.
Place the pumpkin in the middle of the parchment lined baking sheet and ensure the top has been put back on. Place in the oven for 1½-2 hours (or more depending on the size of your pumpkin). Remove the top of the pumpkin and using a knife, check the doneness. When the knife penetrates with little resistance, remove the top and continue to cook for an additional 20-30 minutes. Remove and reserve. Turn the oven OFF and place in prepared pumpkin seeds (see below).
To prepare the pumpkins seeds, place the innards in a large mixing bowl in the sink and add enough water to cover. Remove the strings while rinsing the seeds and place on a paper towel lined baking sheet to dry. Place the cast iron pan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. of EVOO, smoked paprika and cayenne in and heat for 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook stirring often for 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from heat, season with a pinch of salt and reserve. Dry the baking sheet, line with parchment paper and place the seeds on top. Place in the oven after the pumpkin has finished cooking and cook with the carryover heat for 10-15 minutes or until dry and crunchy.
When ready to serve, use a large serving spoon and gently scrap the inside of the pumpkin to release some of the flesh and stir to incorporate. Either place a generous scoop into serving bowls or cut a wedge of the pumpkin and carefully place on a plate ensuring the contents remain. Top with reserved thyme and pumpkin seeds and indulge!