October 17, 2010

It's time for...

Our sometimes annual stuffed pumpkin!

I say sometimes annual because there are years that go by where we
just never end up having the time to make the stuffed pumpkin.

But this year, we did! We started this tradition our first year in Rhode Island after finding a white pumpkin at the pumpkin patch and figuring we'd do something fun with it. Now it's become a hunt for us to find the perfect sized white pumpkin each year for our annual dinner.

We try to either make this meal for Halloween if we aren't entertaining and it's on a weekend, or for our wedding anniversary - tonight, we opted for the pre-anniversary dinner stuffed pumpkin.

Each year I vary
it a bit on how I stuff the pumpkin - hell one year a picture of my stuffed pumpkin even made it to the now defunct Ugly Food Blog! But don't let that deter you - because come on, when have you ever made a stuffed anything that looked REALLY beautiful after you cut it open? I rest my case.

Tonight's stuffing was just kind of done on a whim, and we can honestly say one of the best to date in the past 7 years. This, we agreed, will be the new regular stuffing for the pumpkin.

This is the perfect fall dinner, and I hope I'm sharing it with you in enough time to make before Halloween or even to serve for Thanksgiving. It really would be a great side dish addition to your holiday feast!

Savory Stuffed Pumpkin

1 white pumpkin - about 5-7 pounds. Visually try and cut it in your mind's eye in to four slices, and if you think it's the right size, go with it!
2 boxes Wild Rice mix, made according to directions but omitting butter
2 apples diced
1 pound ground Italian sausage removed from the casings, cooked and browned
Onion/Garlic powder - or fresh
Fresh Sage - about 3-4 T fresh cut ribbons

To begin, cut the top off your pumpkin, remove the seeds and innards. Save the seeds for roasting if you'd like! Once the pumpkin is cleaned out, drizzle the inside with some olive oil and sprinkle with about a 1/4-1/2 tsp. kosher salt.

Place in a square metal baking dish and cook at 375 - you will hear it sizzling a bit and that's fine - make sure the top is off though!

While your rice is cooking, brown your sausage and drain to remove the fat. In a large bowl, mix the cooked rice, the browned sausage, sprinkles of garlic/onion powder - maybe a half teaspoon of each. Then add in two apples, diced with the skins on. Add about 20 good fine cracks of black pepper, no more salt though - the rice is sufficiently salted already. Now if you have a spouse that actually likes dried cranberries, add them here. Otherwise leave them out. Toss in your fresh sage and stir to combine.

Remove the pumpkin shell from the oven, keeping the oven set to 375. By now the pumpkin should be tender but not all the way done yet - the rice takes about 30 minutes so it will have already had 30+ minutes in your oven. Stuff the pumpkin with the filling loosely - do not pack it down! It will expand even more during the baking process. Place the stuffed pumpkin back in the oven and cook for another 20-30 minutes, or until you can easily insert a sharp knife in the pumpkin and pull it out.

Carefully transfer your pumpkin with a flat spatula and a spoon to a large cutting board, preferably one with a well around the edge. let sit for about 3-5 minutes and then cut in to quarters and serve.

You'll find the sage combined with the rice and sausage adds a nice fresh flavor and the apple a bit of sweetness. Our pumpkin had a very spaghetti squash like texture and it just came together so well.


*NOTE* realizing as I'm typing this I completely forgot I bought mushrooms to slice and sauté up to add to the stuffing mixture and forgot to do this step - so if you're a mushroom eater - go for it!

*NOTE 2* I have made stuffed pumpkins before with bread stuffing instead of rice - and I don't recommend it - it becomes way too dense and overpowering from everything else in the stuffing you make. Barley and rice both work very well!

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