With everything good

The second weekend in December my daughter and son-in-law were in town from UK for Christmas. We had just a couple days so we decided to do our traditional meal for Christmas Eve. Typically we have what I  call Snicky Snacks or Snack Supper if you are Methodist familiar. We had all of our favorite finger foods which included cheese, sausage, crackers, dips, chips, pickled herring, olives, deviled eggs, etc….get the picture? But because the kids were arriving mid-afternoon and would be adjusting to the six hour time difference I wanted a couple of heartier offerings.

Earlier in the week I had watched the Martha Stewart show. Martha visited with Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table, who made a stuffed pumpkin. I happened to have a pumpkin in my kitchen. The way Dorie talked about the recipe, offering suggestions, I knew I’d love her cookbook and I’d love the stuffed pumpkin! I made it with her suggested substitute ingredients and the recipe lives up to it’s name:

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

1 pie pumpkin, about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into ½-inch chunks
¼ pound crumbled feta
1 peeled apple sliced in small pieces
2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
About ¼ cup snipped fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Here’s what the instructions say:
“Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot — which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky.

Using a very sturdy knife–and caution–cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o’-lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.

Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper–you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure–and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled–you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little–you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (But it’s hard to go wrong here.)

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours–check after 90 minutes–or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully–it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly–bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.”

I did have too much stuffing so put the extra in a baking dish covered with foil. It was done very quickly. Curious, Kate and I got our spoons to give it a try. Oh my oh my, it was delicious! Next time, I will try the same ingredients in an acorn squash, or even just in a baking dish to make as a sidedish. We cut our pumpkin in wedges to serve. It was very good. VERY good!

I bought the cookbook. It’s as fabulous as I thought it would be. Dorie Greenspan has a terrific attitude about food and the way she writes about it inspires and encourages a cook like me.
It struck me that the name of the recipe perfectly set us up for what to expect, but I’m not sure I believed it was going to be so. I had to taste it to believe. Why do I do that? What part did I doubt? With everything good…good ingredients, in the hands of a willing cook has to be good! Did I doubt my part? My hands?
God gives us good stuff to work with yet sometimes we focus so much on the negative we don’t give ourselves a chance to enjoy or appreciate the good, and the knowing what is, is good. Why is it easier to see “with everything good,” in others than ourselves?
For study: 1Thessalonians 5:19-22

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”
The Amazon link below includes some good information, and pages and excerpts from the book can be viewed. You should know I am an Amazon Associate Member so that, should you purchase the book by clicking this link, I do benefit. Proceeds from sales go to Charity Water.

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About Robin Arnold

Reader, writer, gardener, geek, maker of homes in several states, now settled in Virginia with husband Bob, and Hazel and Wilson the tabby cats.
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