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Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

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Serves 2 to 4 as a main dish

You might consider serving this alongside the Thanksgiving turkey or even instead of it - omit the bacon and you've got a great vegetarian main course.

For more holiday-worthy recipes visit The Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner.

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

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that's just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot - which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn't so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I've always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I've been lucky.

Using a very sturdy knife - and caution - cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It's easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.

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, but taste to be sure - and pack the mix 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 - you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It's hard to go wrong here.)

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours - check 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 the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to 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.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully - it's heavy, hot, and wobbly - bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.

To serve, you have a choice - you can either spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful, or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I'm a fan of the pull-and-mix option.

Photo: Alan Richardson

Wanted to make this for thanksgiving, but didn't have a pumpkin and the stores were closed. Had a butternut squash though, so decided to peel & dice the butternut and mix with all of the filling ingredients in a casserole instead. Added a bit of extra cream, and also mixed in some leftover egg wash from the apple pie - also added a bit of diced apple to the mix. Turned out deliciously - many compliments - guests said best squash ever! Will definitely make this one again.

This was such a beautiful presentation! I served it with smoked turkey thighs, and it's very rich, I think better served on its own. I may try it without cheese to serve with a meat.

I've made this a few times now, since I first heard it described on NPR. It's outstanding! I've now done a few variations, and it's all good; really seems like there's no way to mess it up. Next time I'm going to try replacing the bread with cooked rice. I really like the slow cooker idea - thanks for the tip!

This is great! I used one of the small 'Kuri' squashes we grow lots of every year, perfect for 2 persons and I halved the recipe. The Kuri just fitted in my slow-cooker, and that was dinner done, apart from making a salad. The slow-cook treatment worked well, I guess I could still flash the dish under the grill or in a hot oven to finish it off, but it was actually fine without. I like the fact that I can use leftover bits of cheese, stale bread as well as diminish the squash glut. Plus I now realize I can use different stuffings this way.

Easy, fun, and adored by everyone who likes squash.

We used carmelized onions and WOW this was so good! Even me a non-veggie lover liked the pumpkin. Got rave review all around our table.

I did this last night for a family dinner for 12 and everyone loved it. I substituted the scallions for caramelized onions and was generous with the cheese and seasoned well with both salt and pepper. I am already thinking of when i can make this again. It was excellent.

I made three of these for an event and everyone loved them. I roasted some almonds, then broke them up unevenly (with a ziploc and a mallet) and added to the stuffing. Excellent addition. I also added some ground cloves and ginger to the heavy cream before pouring it over the stuffing. Make sure you don't overstuff -- that will overpower the pumpkin.

Made this the first time as written, it is terrific. The second time I substituted corn bread for the French bread and some butter for the cream, also excellent. Plan to take this to a day after Thanksgiving potluck!

This was delicious and uncomplicated.

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