In 2004, I stumbled across a recipe for stuffed pumpkin on Allrecipes.com. It called for a large pumpkin, involved a tasty-sounding beef and rice mixture, and as much as I wanted to make it, the recipe overwhelmed me. Back then, my repertoire was limited to basic Chinese dishes and spaghetti. So, sighing sadly, I clicked on to another page, but I never forgot that stuffed pumpkin.
In 2004, I was also madly in love with Ryan Gosling. The Notebook came out that summer while I was doing an internship in Washington, D.C., and, although I can’t stand Nicholas Sparks novels, I watched it in the theater with my roommate while tears streamed down our faces. That movie did for kissing in the rain what Arrested Development did for frozen banana stands. (And ironically, it has also proved detrimental to relationships.) However, unlike the stuffed pumpkin, my infatuation with Ryan Gosling eventually faded.
Fast forward to 2011. My cooking skills have gotten considerably better, and since this summer, Ryan Gosling has starred in no less than three movies. Out of those three movies, it was Drive – where he barely spoke and had his shirt on at all times – that revived my old crush. I mean, wow. But it could be that I’m really just in love with the idea of driving around a neon-lit (and curiously traffic-free) Los Angeles at night in a white quilted satin jacket emblazoned with a giant scorpion. Let’s face it, you could put a moldy bagel in that jacket and I’d think it was hot.
I’ve also rekindled the fire with the stuffed pumpkin. Well, not the one that originally caught my eye, but a different one stuffed with a lovely panade of toasted bread, onions, chard, and melted Gruyere. A panade is a type of bread casserole – not very similar to bread pudding, but more along the lines of the warm bread salad that’s served with Zuni Cafe’s famous roast chicken (which, by the way, is life-changing). Basically, it’s toasted bread cubes (leftover stale bread is great for this dish) baked with various vegetables and/or meat, cheese, and broth. The bread soaks up the broth and becomes slightly softened, resulting in a flavorful dish that is alternately soft, chewy, or slightly crispy. This version is warm, gooey, comforting, and baked inside a pumpkin that conveniently also doubles as a charming presentation piece. It doesn’t get any better than this…unless, perhaps, if the pumpkin was wearing a white satin jacket.
Panade in a Pumpkin
From Tea and Cookies
Yield: 2-3 main course servings, more if served as a side dish
Sugar pumpkins, which are traditionally the type of pumpkin used to make pies, are great for this recipe. If you have any leftover stuffing, Tara suggests baking it in a separate dish. It’s just as delicious on its own.
One 1.5 lb pumpkin
1 large onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, slivered
2 1/2 cups of rustic bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
5 leaves of chard, stems removed, cut into ribbons
4 oz. of gruyere cheese, grated (I used 6 oz.)
1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash pumpkin and pat dry. Cut a circle around the stem like you would if you were carving a jack o’ lantern, remove the top, and scoop out the seeds and stringy parts. Sprinkle the interior with salt.
In a large saucepan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and golden, but still firm. Add garlic and cook until softened, continuing to stir occasionally. Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl.
Wipe saucepan clean and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add chard and saute and until wilted. Transfer to mixing bowl with onion/garlic mixture. Add bread and cheese and mix to thoroughly combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding a little more salt than you’d think would be necessary.
Stuff the bread mixture into the pumpkin, packing it in tight. Warm the chicken/vegetable stock in the microwave or over the stove. Slowly pour the stock into the pumpkin until it starts to pool at the top of the pumpkin.
Loosely place the pumpkin lid back on top, leaving a little room for air to escape. Put pumpkin on a lightly greased (to ensure it doesn’t stick) baking sheet or skillet. Bake until stuffing is bubbling and pumpkin has softened a bit, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove top and bake uncovered for another 1o-15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Note: You can serve this in a variety of ways. I halved mine because I wanted to eat it as a main dish, but if you’re serving it as a side cut it into wedges. You can also mix the pumpkin flesh into the stuffing and serve the entire thing intact.