Cheese Fondue in a Roasted Pumpkin
This is best described as pumpkin nirvana. What else would you call something that involves layering nutty, earthy Gruyère 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 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 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.
Great to Cook with Kids
The recipe is one I learned about from my friend Alison. At first glance it seemed too complicated, the sort of thing to eye in a glossy magazine but never tackle. When Alison said she made it with her daughter’s class, I reconsidered. If third graders are up for it, 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 them. This is all stuff kids love: cheese, bread, fondue… pumpkins for goodness sakes. And if you involve them, they may just eat it.
And love it.
Healthy Pumpkin Fondue
The original recipe came by way of Gourmet magazine. The core ingredients are quite wholesome: pumpkin, bread, cheese, and milk. I tinkered with it to lighten the load of saturated fat and boost the fiber. As such, it comes in at under 400 calories a serving along with calcium, protein, the aforementioned fiber, and a boatload of vitamin A (a single cup of pumpkin delivers nearly 200 percent of daily needs for this essential nutrient).
What Kind of Pumpkin to Cook?
Garden variety pumpkins from the pumpkin patch are likely not the right fit for this recipe. They tend to be grown for looks more than flavor. Instead, pick up a Sugar Pie Pumpkin, which are typically sold in the produce section of supermarkets throughout the fall. When cooked, the flesh is tender, sweet, and not too stringy. They vary in size, so look for one that’s about five pounds for this recipe. That said, you can certainly scale down the recipe if you are serving a smaller crowd.
How to Serve Pumpkin Fondue
Although this recipe looks fairly rich, the abundance of pumpkin balances out all the other goodies. It’s perfectly suitable for a weeknight supper, which I typically pair with a simple green salad. It’s also a fun recipe to cook for a crowd and serve on a fall buffet. Make it for friends coming over for Halloween or set it out to nosh on before Thanksgiving dinner.
How to Make Cheese Fondue in a Roasted Pumpkin
To help you tackle this recipe, here are a handful of steps to get you started:
- Lightly toast thick slices of crusty bread in the oven (I use whole-grain walnut levain, but any crusty bread will do).
- Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds, just like you would if you were planning to carve it.
- Whisk together milk, broth and seasonings. Use vegetable broth if you want to keep this vegetarian-friendly.
- Alternate layers of bread, the milk mixture, and grated Gruyère cheese all the way up to the top.
- Set the top back on the pumpkin, rub the whole thing with olive oil, and bake until the pumpkin is tender enough to easily pierce with a knife .
Be sure to check out some of my other favorite pumpkin recipes
Cheese Fondue in a Roasted Pumpkin
This is terrific as a main dish, but works well as an appetizer for a crowd. You can also scale down the recipe if you find a smaller pumpkin and are feeding fewer people. My version departs a bit from the original recipe in that it calls for less cheese, low fat milk instead of heavy cream, and whole grain walnut bread, if you can find it. Despite the short-cuts in the "richness" department, it remains pretty heavenly.
- 1 loaf whole wheat walnut levain (or 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. Adapted from Gourmet Magazine's Roast Pumpkin with Cheese "Fondue"