Happy Thanksgiving, people! I hope your day was filled with excellent food, lively conversations and lots of hugs from people you love. Mine was!
I've had my eye on this whole roast pumpkin for a while now--it's one of Ruth Reichl's favorite party dishes. What an extravagance! Shredded Gruyere and Emmantal, layered with toasted baguette rounds and soaked in nutmeg-scented heavy cream and chicken stock, baked inside a scooped-out pumpkin for an hour and a half until it's all melted together.
It sounds glorious, and well, it is. My only problem making this pumpkin dish was actually procuring the pumpkin--I went from store to store--even tried a landscaper--only to be told that the hurricane had devastated the New England pumpkin crop and even before Halloween markets were importing them from other parts of the country.
Oh no! It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to find a pumpkin. I spent a few days resigned to finding a less glorious vegetable dish to bring and wondering what I was going to do with all that Gruyere and Emmental in the fridge.
But then! I went to the annual Santa Parade party at my sister's house:
And my eagle-eyed mom said she had noticed some pumpkins at a farm stand on the way into Bradford! I guess the hurricane took a detour around the Haverhill area? On the way back home we pulled over to the unmanned but pumpkin-bedecked farmstand and I took a look. Most of the pumpkins were actually rotten, or on the way to it, but there was one that was sound, and just the right size. So I loaded it into the car and drove all around the barn and house looking for somebody to give some money to--farmstand people, whoever you are, I'll give you some money next season!
Pumpkin score! Except...there were two teeny little places where the pumpkin was a little soft. That's nice language for starting to go rotten. One was on the bottom and one was on the side sort of close to the top.
Yes, I did wake up Thanksgiving morning mulling this problem over. And let me tell you how thankful I am that of all the potential problems in the world one can have that can wake you up, mine was wondering about how to maintain the integrity of a pumpkin wall so cream and cheese wouldn't leak out. Problems like this are a blessing!
Here's how I solved it. When I scooped out the pumpkin innards, I took out all of the rotten pumpkin flesh that I could from those two spots, but kept the outer skin intact. Then I crumpled up some parchment paper and stuffed it into the gaps. I thought about foil, but didn't want the metal to conduct extra heat to those areas.
I also didn't want the paper plugs to come loose and float around--or worse, to get scooped up into somebody's plate, so I pinned a small square of parchment paper over each plug with toothpicks, and since I didn't see anybody choking on a toothpick last night I can assume they stayed in place. Yay for no choking!
The only thing that was kind of a pain in the ass about this dish is that it TOTALLY hogs the oven space. And it takes a long time. With all those side dishes that needed to be heated, we ended up firing up the grill and relocating the pumpkin for the last half hour or so (oh, and let's not forget the small propane oven we tried next door that is uh leaking gas or something? And set off an alarm? I guess we should also be thankful the house didn't blow up.)
So make this dish if a) you have two or more ovens b) you have alternative cooking options c) this is the only thing you're eating. Oh, and d) you're not on a diet. This is not on any diet known to man, unless you're on the see-food diet. (Haha, get it? I see food, I eat it? I think we're all on that diet this time of year.)