Market Umbrella is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3), based in New Orleans, whose mission is to cultivate the power of farmers markets to drive economic and community health in the region. Market Umbrella has operated the Crescent City Farmers Markets (CCFM) since 1995.
Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good from the kitchn
- 1 (about 3-pound) baking pumpkin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 4 ounces stale bread (about 4 slices)
- 4 ounces Gruyère or Emmental cheese
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 slices cooked bacon
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives or scallions
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Arrange a rack in the lower of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment. With this method, 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.
Alternatively, bake in a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. The pumpkin will keep its shape, but might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot—which is an appealingly homey way to serve it.
Using a very sturdy knife — and caution — cut a cap out of the top of 1 (about 3-pound) 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 with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
Prepare the following, placing each in the same large bowl as you complete it: Thinly slice 4 ounces stale bread, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups). Cut 4 ounces Gruyère or Emmental cheese (or a combination) into 1/2-inch cubes (1 cup). Remove the germ from the middle of 3 garlic cloves, then coarsely chop the cloves. Coarsely chop 4 strips cooked bacon. Thinly slice until you have 1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions. Pick the leaves from 6 fresh thyme sprigs until you have about 1 tablespoon, then finely chop.
Toss everything in the bowl to combine. Transfer the mixture into the pumpkin -- it should be well filled and you can pack it in—you might have a little too much filling (see Recipe Notes if you have extra filling), or you might need to add to it.
Stir 1/2 cup of heavy cream with a pinch of grated nutmeg, remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black 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. (But it’s hard to go wrong here.)
Put the cap in place. Bake the pumpkin 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, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 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.
You have choices: you can cut wedges of the pumpkin and filling; you can scoop 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.
Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls or wedges, it’s just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.
The Crescent City Farmers Market operates weekly year-round throughout New Orleans. The CCFM hosts 70+ local small farmers, fishers, and food producers, and more than 150,000 shoppers annually.