Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stuffed Pumpkins

October is a special month. While it closes my favorite season (summer, of course), it is a month full of festivals, activities and a change in our pallet’s desires. We go from bright and light summer foods to more hearty and comforting winter nourishment. Also with the Tampa Bay Rays heading into the World Series, October has taken on a very new and special meaning. A week or two ago I wrote that the fall weather was creeping its way into my psyche and I was actually beginning to enjoy it. I also wrote that the gourd was on my mind. Well folks all of the above has inspired the most original dish I have ever made. In the past week, I have made 2 versions of this and today I will homogenize the 2 into what I think is the perfect combination.

So I was lying in bed last week just about to doze off when this thought crept into my head. It woke me. I was a little bleary but woke to ponder. I stumbled over to the computer to see if it was as original as I thought. Alas, I was not the first to pen the concept (in fact there were many) but my twist appeared to have a uniqueness that gave me pride. Now it just had to taste good.

It all starts with the pumpkin. It has to be right. Those cute little mini pumpkins that I have seen at the market in the past month are the centerpiece. I wanted them to be the vessel for some type of culinary masterpiece. That is the unoriginal part. A Google search will show you quite a few versions (even though I swear I thought I invented it). I perused sweet and savory versions but I never saw the one that has awoken me. This was good news. Off to the market.

Ingredients gathered we are set. If you recall the blue cheese and mushrooms from the last post’s steak, well that was the base for this filling. I basically fill the little gourd with my original concoction and bake them. Man the gooey, bubbly center of these pumpkins is rich and wonderful. Tangy cheese mixed with the mushrooms and sweet pumpkin flesh permeate your senses and it really was more than I could hope for. Here you go. Hope you enjoy. This would be a fantastic thing to serve for the upcoming holiday meal. Plus the prep time is only about 20 minutes.

Blue Cheese, Mushroom and Pancetta Stuffed Mini Pumpkins

1 slice pancetta, cut 1” thick from deli then cut into small ½” cubes
3 cups blue cheese, crumbled
2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas but button would be fine)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed red peppers (optional and adjust amount as desired)
8 mini pumpkins (about the size of a softball)
8 Cinnamon Sticks
8 Bread slices, cut into circles about the same diameter as the pumpkin opening. I used a rye bread but any dense bread such as sourdough would be fantastic, I think

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat add the pancetta and brown. Stir frequently and remove from heat after about 5 minutes. Drain pancetta on paper towel and set aside.

To prepare the pumpkins, slice the top off (approximately top 3rd of the pumpkin) and scoop out the seeds. These can be reserved for other use if desired. This can be done the day before and refrigerated overnight.

In a mixing bowl, combine the blue cheese, mushrooms, shallots and crushed red peppers. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Stuff each pumpkin with the mixture to the top and place in a baking dish. Add a cinnamon stick to each pumpkin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. The contents of the pumpkins will reduce. Remove and press the bread into each pumpkin with the cinnamon stick still sticking out the top. Now top with the remaining blue cheese mix. What we’re accomplishing here is an overflow of blue cheese and an extra layer of depth with the bread.

1 comment:

SteamyKitchen said...

Love your cute pumpkins! Thanks for such a nice email. Good luck and have fun blogging!