Friday, November 6, 2009

Promised Stuffed Pumpkin

My favorite season in the year is Fall. Fall is why I deal with crappy summers and crappier winters and allergy-inducing (albeit pretty) Springs. Fall is why I will probably never willingly leave New England.

Fall is when I am Empress of the Kitchen!!

My darling may rule the BBQ pit and smoker, but I "PONE" the oven!! If it can be baked, broiled, or roasted, it is mine!

Aaah, Fall cooking! It is also the reason why I can deal with plus sizes!! Oh well! Mm-mmn-mmn!!

Aaah, Fall! Gorgeous leaves, great weather, apple picking, apple pie, apple crisp, apple bread, baked apples, pumpkins, roasted pumpkin seeds, stuffed pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, apple-roasted chicken, sage-stuffing chicken, dutch-oven chicken with cranberries and apples, cranberry-sage stuffed pork chops, roasted pork loin with cranberries and apples, sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, savory roasted root vegetables, sweet-potato soup. Aaaah… the list goes on.

Why am I writing about Fall cooking? Cuz I just made one of my favorite dinners that I'd forgotten all about in the past 7 or 8 months that I shoulda made sooner if I actually had the time. Stuffed pumpkin!!

Damn… it is good!!

I couldn't even eat chocolate if you offered it to me! Seriously! I still have some truffles left and they are UNTOUCHED!

Just because I feel like it and want to share the joy, I will post how I make this decadent dinner!

First, wait for a crappy cool day or a day when you don't have a lot planned for a few hours. I took my time because I had some today. Overall prep and cook time is 2-3 hours.

Now, this can feed 2-4 people based on how hungry you are. Also, keep in mind, I measure like Rachel Ray, by sight, feel, and taste.

You need:

A 4-5 lb pumpkin.
About ½ lb of sweet Italian sausage (or sage sausage or ground pork with sage)
Fresh sage, about two handfuls.
Fresh thyme, about two handfuls
Half a read onion
A handful of fresh cranberries (frozen work okay, too.)
A handful of shredded or pre-diced carrots
1-3 stalks celery (I don't much like celery, so I only use one stalk.)
Half a cup of fine breadcrumbs
One stick of butter, cut into pats
One large egg
One clove garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
Some crumbled goat cheese
2-3 tablespoons flour
Sea salt
Ground Sage
Garlic powder
Whole cloves
Whole peppercorns
(the last few are a palmful or so of each, but they are seasoning and used a few times.)
One bottle of wine, preferably an oak-aged California Chardonnay.
A splash of milk
A splash of apple cider

There are several parts to make: the pumpkin, the stuffing, the roasted seeds, and the pan sauce.

First things first, get that top off the pumpkin and gut the sucker! Save as many seeds as you can and roast them with a fine mist of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and some fine-textured sea salt.

(There are several schools on how to roast pumpkin seeds. In all cases, wash them thoroughly to get off as much gunk as you can. You can roast them under the broiler at about 400 degrees (F) for 15-20 minutes or you can slow roast them at 200 for a few hours. I've done both and they come out the same. It depends on how much time you want to take and how high of an electric bill you can deal with.)

While your seeds are roasting make sure you have all the spindly guts out of the pumpkin by scraping it around with a tablespoon.

Use most of the salt, ground sage, and garlic powder to rub on the inside of the pumpkin.

Finely chop your onion and celery and throw those carrots and cranberries for a quick chopping whirl in your food processor. Keep the cranberries and carrots about as coarse as the onion and celery; be careful not to liquefy!!

Chop up about ¾ of your fresh sage and take the leaves off of about 20 or so sprigs of the fresh thyme.

Mix the ground pork or sausage with the onion, celery, carrots, cranberries, breadcrumbs, fresh sage & thyme, and the one egg until its thoroughly blended, about the consistency of meatloaf.

The rub should have leeched out a good amount of water from the pumpkin at this time. Dump it and pat it dry. (Otherwise it gets too wet.)

For the pumpkin, the oven should be set on 350-375 degrees F, depending on your oven.

Stuff the stuffing into the pumpkin; it's okay if it's a little overfull. Toss a pat of butter on the top and put the lid on. Throw it on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 1 ½ - 2 hours until the inside temperature reads 160. Turn off the oven, leaving the pumpkin in there, and focus on the pan sauce.

At medium heat, melt about ¾ stick of butter in a sauciere pan (the one that looks like a hybrid of a sauce and fry pan; if you haven't one, either a sauce or a small frying pan will work) with the rest of the fresh sage, fresh thyme, peppercorns, whole cloves, the garlic clove, and about a tablespoon of the ground sage. Once it's melted and begins to reduce, add about half a cup of your wine, cover it, and let it simmer for 3-5 minutes on med-low heat.

Once it's simmered, take off the cover and let it reduce to about half the amount. Then, using a slotted spoon or a mesh strainer, take out all your herbs. When all you have left is the reduced liquid, add your flour and whisk it together to make a roux. Cook the roux until it is a dark blonde color and then add milk and cider until it is the consistency you like – I go for a gravy consistency, but you may like it thinner. Whisk it until it is all incorporated and take it off the heat.

Take out your stuffed pumpkin; it should be fork-tender on the outside. Cut it with a large knife into your 2-4 servings, ladle your sauce over it, sprinkle on the goat cheese and some roasted pumpkin seeds, and serve with a glass of that Chardonnay.


An quicker and slightly lower fat alternative is this:

Par-roast the gutted pumpkin empty and cook the sausage and vegetables in a skillet. (Split the fresh herbs about evenly between them.) Drain the fat from the sausage and pat dry the cooled pumpkin. (The par-roasting of the pumpkin will usually matches up in perfect time with sautéing the sausage, draining it, and sautéing the vegetables. The cooling times also line up pretty well, too.) Make your stuffing with the cooked (but cooled!) meat and vegetables, breadcrumbs, herbs, and egg. Roast it in the oven for about half an hour.

For the pan sauce, I'm still playing with that, but, from experience, if you cut back the butter and up the milk/cider, you should get a similar consistency, though it will be less rich.

You can also get low-fat goat-cheese, if you're really worried about it all.

Now, get back to that Chardonnay and enjoy!

Happy Autumn!!!!


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