The first time I heard this dish described, during a radio interview with Ruth Reichl (former editor of Gourmet and food critic for The New York Times), I found it so compelling I was ready to drive to the nearest pumpkin patch. (Ruth has a gift for making food sound really, really good.) Imagine, a small pumpkin as a gently yielding cooking vessel for bread, cheese, chicken broth, and herbs! Even though I couldn’t entirely imagine how the dish would taste, I knew it would be spectacular to behold. Well, years flew by and I forgot about pumpkin dreams, until all things Halloween settled in a few weeks ago. This time it was game on: I knew a cheese-stuffed pumpkin would roast beautifully on the grill, and that a fragrant charcoal fire would make it even more delicious.
In this recipe, I season the inside of the pumpkin cavity with The Usual (our spice blend that makes virtually everything smell like Thanksgiving). Next, I layered the inside of the pumpkin with toasted baguette slices and a mix of Gruyere and Parmesan. I swapped out the cream from the original recipe for a fruity seasonal ale (Blood Orange IPA from Austin Beerworks), which joins chicken broth to provide moisture for the bread and cheese stuffing.
Grill-roasted over indirect heat, a small pie pumpkin takes about an hour at 350 F for the stuffing to simmer and the pumpkin flesh to become tender. Raising the grill lid and seeing and smelling your creation will likely top your list of Great Pumpkin moments. That is, until you slice your masterpiece into wedges and have your first bite. Next time, I’m adding smoked sausage to the mix.
Beer & Cheese Stuffed Pumpkin
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish or snack
- Approximately 12 inches of baguette (preferably day old), cut into 1/2" slices
- 1 small pie pumpkin (approx 8 inches in diameter)
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon The Usual or Wicked Winona
- 1 cup chicken broth, plus more as needed
- 1 cup seasonal ale (e.g. Austin Beerworks Blood Orange IPA or a pumpkin ale)
- 1 heaping cup grated Gruyere or Emmenthal
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- Vegetable oil, for greasing
Heat an oven to 350 F.
Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire. While you wait for the fire, toast baguette slices on a baking sheet in the oven until the tops are browned. Set aside.
Using a sharp knife, cut a wide circle around the pumpkin stem and remove the top. Scrape out seeds and any loose fibers from inside the pumpkin (compost or reserve seeds for another use). Season the pumpkin flesh with a drizzle of olive oil and The Usual, using your fingers to distribute the spices.
Combine the broth and beer in a measuring cup and mix the cheeses together in bowl.
Place a layer of baguette slices in the bottom of pumpkin, and then cover with about ⅓ cup of cheese. Continue layering the bread and cheese, until the pumpkin is filled to within about 1/2" of opening. Slowly pour the broth mixture into the pumpkin, until it’s level with the bread (adding more of either liquid as needed to fill). Cover the pumpkin with its top and place it in small cast iron skillet. Brush the outside surface of vegetable oil.
When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, place the skillet over indirect heat and bake until pumpkin is tender and the filling is gently simmering and puffed, about 1 hour. Allow the pumpkin to rest at least 10 minutes. To serve, remove the top and slice the pumpkin in half vertically, and then slice halves into wedges and serve in shallow bowls. Guests should use a spoon to scoop up the cheesy bread stuffing and tender pumpkin flesh, leaving the rind.
Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe.
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