This is best described as pumpkin nirvana. What else would you call something that involves layering nutty, earthy Gruyere cheese and slices of crusty bread inside a sugar pie pumpkin, and then baking it whole until the outside is burnished, the flesh goes tender, and the rest of it melts into an oozy mess.
It’s the sort of thing you might make once a year. Twice, tops. But you’ll think about it from time to time the rest of the year, and wait until those first pumpkins show up at farm stands and supermarkets come fall. And if you do happen to forget about Pumpkin Nirvana, don’t worry, because your child will remember. They likely thought it as much the culinary wonder as you did.
The recipe is from Gourmet magazine by way of my friend Alison. At first glance, I thought it was a little intimidating; the sort of thing to eye in a glossy magazine but never tackle. But then Alison informed me she made it with her daughter’s class, so I figured if third graders are up for it, darnit, so am I.
And so are you.
In fact, if you have a third grader of your own, or any other grader for that matter, grab ‘em. This is all stuff kids love: cheese, bread, fondue… pumpkins for goodness sakes. And if you involve them, they may just eat it.
Don’t buy any old pumpkin; a garden variety carving one won’t taste as good. It’s gotta be a sugar pie pumpkin. For bread, I use whole wheat walnut levain, but any dense crusty bread will do. My version departs a bit from the original recipe, most notably in the fact that it calls for less cheese, and low fat milk instead of heavy cream. Despite the short-cuts in the “richeness” department, it remains pretty heavenly.
It might be just the thing to make for dinner tonight.
Or make it on Halloween.
Just make it. Then you’ll have a really lovely food memory to hang onto, and think about occasionally, until the bright orange globes of fall start to show up on farm stands this time next year.
Notes: For another Halloween night supper idea, check out last year’s recipe for Walking Tacos. My kids have already requested a repeat performance.
Also, congrats to Meme I. and Tara F., the two lucky winners of my Weelicious Cookbook giveaway. Stay tuned for upcoming giveaways!
Cheese Fondue in a Roasted Pumpkin
• 1 loaf whole wheat walnut levain, regular levain, or other crusty loaf of bread
• One 5- to 6-pound sugar pie pumpkin
• 1 1/2 cups low fat milk
• 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
• 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (7 ounces)
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lower third.
Cut six 1/2-inch thick slices of bread from the thickest part of the loaf, lay on a baking sheet and set in the oven. Bake until lightly toasted on one side, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven, stack the bread slices, and cut into quarters. Set aside.
Remove the top of the pumpkin by cutting a 3-inch circle around the stem with a small sharp knife. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and any stringy bits. Save those seeds for toasting if you like.
Whisk together the milk, broth, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
Put a snug layer of toasted bread in the bottom of the pumpkin (about 5 pieces should fit). Then cover with about about 1/2 cup cheese and about 1/2 cup milk mixture. Continue layering the bread, cheese, and milk mixture until the pumpkin is filled to about 1/2 inch from top, using all of the milk mixture. (You may have some bread and cheese left over…mini grilled cheese sandwiches, anyone?)
Cover the pumpkin with the top and put in a small roasting pan. Rub the olive oil over the outside of the pumpkin. Bake until the pumpkin is tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. To check for doneness, lift the top of the pumpkin and pierce the flesh on the body of the pumpkin with a knife. It should ease right in.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately using a large spoon to scoop out the soft pumpkin and cheesy filling into shallow bowls.
Note: Pumpkin can be prepared up to two hours before cooking.
Makes 6 servings as a main dish or 10 as a side.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s Roast Pumpkin with Cheese “Fondue”