It’s hard to believe that the holiday season will be here soon. Already I’m plotting out Thanksgiving appetizers and I have a notebook dedicated to my annual Christmas dinner party. Over the years, I’ve tried to find healthy, locally-sourced alternatives to the traditional “we have to have these things every year or it’s just not the same” dishes, and have always come up a little short, because there’s just no substitution for nostalgia and sense memory. A pumpkin pie made with condensed milk may not be the most objectively delicious thing in the world, but if it tastes like home and happy memories to you, we can’t really replace that, even with a sorghum sweetened, heirloom pumpkin version, can we? (Recipe forthcoming anyway.)
So instead of trying to find substitutes for my friends and family’s long-loved holiday treats, this year I’m putting my efforts into creating new favorites. An early contender for my Thanksgiving table is this stuffed pumpkin: filled with local treats and baked whole, this has a high presentation pay-off despite being very simple to prepare.
While I wrote this recipe intending it to be served alongside turkey at a holiday meal, it would also work well as a vegan main course if you omit the sausage. Similarly, the sourdough I’ve used below can be replaced with a gluten-free bread to make it more allergen-friendly.
Whole Stuffed Pumpkin
Begin by frying the salami in a large skillet over low heat. You want the meat to warm slowly so that it releases fat into the pan, rather than searing.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toast the bread until it’s very dried out and just beginning to get golden on a few edges.
Prepare the pumpkin to be stuffed by cutting a hole in the top of the pumpkin, about 2/3 the diameter of the squash. Remove the seeds and stringy pumpkin innards with a spoon. Take your time and be a bit of a perfectionist about this step–it will pay off later. Reserve the seeds, if you like, to toast for a snack later.
When the salami is hot and beginning to crisp, add the onions, garlic and rosemary to the pan and cook for about two minutes or until the onions are just beginning to soften. Mix in the paprika, salt and cinnamon, and transfer to a large bowl to combine with the toasted bread, chestnuts and muscadines. Fold the mixture together gently.
Fill the pumpkin with the stuffing, pressing gently with the back of the spoon to make it all fit. (If you find that this is not working, add a little broth as you go, so that it condenses.)
Rub the skin of the pumpkin with a little cooking oil and replace the “lid”, then wrap in two layers of foil, place on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour. Check the pumpkin at this time, and remove the top of the pumpkin to allow moisture to evaporate. Continue to roast as long as it takes for the squash to be cooked through–soft enough to eat with a fork, but not yet losing its shape (another 20 minutes or so, depending on your oven).
Slice in wedges (I did this according to the grooves along the outside of the pumpkin) and serve.
Serves 8 as a hearty side dish, or 4 very generously as a main course.