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Fall into Cooking Featured Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

I've got a slideshow of random snapshots that runs as a screensaver on my computer, and every time the picture of pumpkins for sale at Scott’s Farm Stand in Essex, Connecticut, comes up, I smile. In the picture, it’s a sunny day and the pumpkins, scattered higgledy-piggledy across a big field, look like so many roly-poly playthings. Some people might squint and imagine the jack-o-lanterns that many of these pumpkins are destined to become. Me? I see them sitting in the middle of my dining table, their skins burnished from the heat of the oven and their tops mounded with bubbly cheese and cream. Ever since Catherine, a friend of mine in Lyon, France, told me about how she and her family stuff pumpkins with bread and cheese and bacon and garlic and herbs and cream, I can’t look at a pumpkin on either side of the Atlantic without thinking, "Dinner!"

Of course, pumpkins are a New World vegetable, but I’m seeing them more and more in the Paris markets, which means I’m making this dish more and more wherever I am. It’s less a recipe than an arts and crafts project; less a formula than a template to play with and make your own.

Basically—and it’s really very basic— you hollow out a small pumpkin, just as you would for a jack-o-lantern, salt and pepper the inside, and then start filling it up. My standard recipe, the one Catherine sent to me, involves seasoning chunks of stale bread, tossing them with bacon and garlic, cubes of cheese (when I’m in France, I use Gruyere or Emmenthal; when I’m in the States, I opt for cheddar) and some herbs, packing the pumpkin with this mix and then pouring in enough cream to moisten it all.

But there’s nothing to stop you from using leftover cooked rice instead of bread--I did that one night and it was risotto-like and fabulous--or from adding dried fruit and chopped nuts, cooked spinach or Swiss chard, or apples or pears, fall’s favored fruits. And I was crazy about the dish when I stirred some cooked hot sausage meat into the mix.

The possibilities for improvisation don’t end with the filling: You’ve got a choice about the way to serve this beauty. I think you should always bring it to the table whole--you wouldn’t want to deprive your guests of the chance to ooh and aah--but whether you should slice or scoop is up to you. If you serve it in slices, you get a wedge of pumpkin piled high with the filling, and that’s pretty dramatic (if something this rustic can be called 'dramatic'). The wedge serving is best eaten with a knife and fork (or knife and spoon). If you scoop, what you do is reach into the pumpkin with a big spoon, scrape the cooked pumpkin meat from the sides of the pumpkin into the center, and stir everything around. Do this and you’ll have a kind of mash--not so pretty, but so delicious.

Catherine serves it scooped. I serve it sliced sometimes and scooped others. Either way, I can’t imagine this won’t become an instant fall favorite chez you. --Dorie Greenspan

Makes 2 very generous servings or 4 more genteel servings

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Details

ISBN-10:  0618875530
ISBN-13:  978-0618875535
Author:  Dorie Greenspan
Genre:  Cooking, Food & Wine
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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review by . March 01, 2011
My beautiful copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table arrived and after looking it over and marking out the recipes I just had to try, I began reading from cover to cover. This is an exquisite book in many ways. First, it’s a lovely hardcover volume, oversized with good quality heavy paper and enough photographs to get the creative juices flowing.      The volume contains more than 300 recipes gleaned from Ms. Greenspan’s own library, from French friends …
review by . December 06, 2010
Enthusiastic Francophile and James Beard Award Winner Greenspan shares some of her favorite recipes for French home cooking for the American cook, in this oversized, lavishly illustrated book.    That means some French recipes are tweaked with American ideas or recast with American ingredients, such as the Lyonnaise Garlic and Herb Cheese made with Ricotta instead of fromage blanc. But mostly these are recipes "with a French soul" that can easily be prepared anywhere.    Prov …
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