I asked myself, “Self, what’s the worst that could happen if I threw my whole pumpkin – uncut into the oven?”
“Maybe, I’d be out the $3.00 I spent at the pumpkin farm?”
“Or maybe it would explode in my oven, covering the oven with slimy seeds and pumpkin ‘guts’?”
So I did it. I opened the oven door and stuck the entire pumpkin, uncut, stem-and-all in and closed the door!
When I opened the oven door 1 hour and 20 minutes later, nothing had exploded. And nothing covered the insides of the oven walls. The stem was not black and neither was the pumpkin flesh.
Instead, when I cut open the top and pulled up the ‘lid’ still stuck with seeds, the inside revealed a perfect evenly cooked interior. And the outside was a deep golden orange that would be a gorgeous serving vessel.
Now, this little experiment was not entered into without some prior research. I consulted a few cookbooks for pumpkin soups served in the pumpkin shell. Nothing.
Searching online for any “recipe in pumpkin shell” yielded a few recipes similar to this delicious-looking whole pumpkin apple casserole. But I wanted something savory and cheesy like a gratin or strata. I did find this amazing-looking Pumpkin and Cabot Habanero Cheddar Soufflés recipe to add to my To-Try file. But no whole-pumpkin strata.
In the end, it was the Cabot recipe that gave me a hint that cooking a whole pumpkin might not burn down the house – but I wasn’t positive since the soufflé recipe uses mini pumpkins and my sugar pumpkin was a whopping 11 inches in diameter!
Once my pumpkin was cooked, I created a cheesy, savory gratin with a celery and a little sweet apple. It’s a bit like Thanksgiving stuffing, only waaay better!Print
Whole Pumpkin Cheddar Gratin
Bake a cheesy, savory bread pudding, with sweet apples inside a WHOLE pumpkin.
- 1 large sugar pumpkin
- 1 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 large apple, peeled, cored, chopped
- 1–1 1/2 cup chicken broth, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups) I used Cabot
- 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (about 4 slices firm white Italian bread)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Place uncut pumpkin in large shallow dish and add 1/4 inch of water; cover tightly as best you can with foil and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until just tender. Let cool. Then cut off ‘lid’ and scrape out pumpkin seeds. Place pumpkin shell in refrigerator to chill while completing remainder of recipe. Cut and scrape pumpkin meat from inside of shell leaving at least 1/4 inch shell. Chop pumpkin meat into bite-sized pieces.
- Mix together cheese and breadcrumbs; set aside.
- In large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and sugar. Stir often until onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in apple, 1/2 cup chicken broth, salt, thyme, and pepper, saute until apple is tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add chopped pumpkin, about 1 1/2 cup breadcrumb mixture and 1/2 cup broth; cook, stirring until thoroughly heated through.
- Transfer mixture back into cold pumpkin shell and pour 1/2 cup broth over mixture. Sprinkle remaining bread crumb mixture over top of pumpkin mixture. Cover entire top of pumpkin with foil. Place pumpkin on metal baking sheet (not stoneware! I cracked mine in the heat!) Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes until heated through. Remove foil and broil until breadcrumbs are golden (being careful not to burn pumpkin shell.) Serve in pumpkin shell.