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Monday, November 22, 2010

Cinderella, Cinderella

It is always a plus to live in a neighborhood full of nice people. I love my neighbors. But what is really fabulous is living in a neighborhood full of nice people and fabulous cooks. It seems like everyone on our street can work it and cook it. And oh, how I love to taste it. Forget borrowing the unnecessary cup of sugar. Here is what one talented neighborhood duo "whipped" up in their kitchen while listening to NPR. Ambrosia!

Stuffed Cinderella Pumpkin

1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound bacon*
1 Cinderella pumpkin
1 tablespoon soft butter
Salt, to taste
8 ounces gruyere, coarsely grated
1/2 pound creme fraiche (or 1 cup heavy cream)
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Fresh thyme leaves, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Tear bread into small pieces, place on jellyroll pan and sprinkle with minced garlic. Heat in oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dried.

Meanwhile, cut bacon into dice and fry until crisp. Remove from grease with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towel-lined tray.After bread is toasted, remove and turn oven up to 400 degrees.

With a sturdy knife, cut a cover off the pumpkin about 4 inches in diameter. Hold the knife at an angle while cutting. Scoop out the seeds and strings and either set aside to roast later or throw away (into your compost heap, of course.)

Butter the inside of the pumpkin and the underside of the lid with the softened butter. Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (An alternative is to place the pumpkin in a pot or tureen in case it collapses.) Inside the pumpkin, layer bread, bacon, cheese, creme fraiche or cream and sprinkle with salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Repeat until pumpkin is full. Replace top on pumpkin and place in oven.

Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the pumpkin begins to soften on the outside and the filling begins to bubble. Turn tray once or twice during cooking.

Lower heat to 350 degrees and cook 1/2 hour more, until the pumpkin is tender but still holds its shape. If it's getting too brown, cover it loosely with foil. The pumpkin may be kept warm in a 200-degree oven for 1/2 hour. It does, however, stay hot for a very long time.

To serve, remove cover and dip into the pumpkin with a long-handled spoon, scraping the flesh off the pumpkin's bottom and sides for each serving. Serves 10 as a side-dish.

*I would omit bacon or use a meat-free substitute...some are actually quite good.

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