Heidi and I think the same things are funny. Like puns. Some of her best work:
“Don’t guac away from me!” and the ever-popular “I never sausage a thing!”
We’ve seen each other through a lot. Like when her hair was orange from henna and when my hair made me look like a 42-year-old substitute teacher. She knew me when I regularly wore overalls, and I still sat by her when she wore crazy paisley pants in public.
Early in our friendship, I was in Paris working with a group from my college, and Heidi was studying in Spain for the same semester. She, covertly, found out when approximately our group would be by Notre Dame, took a train to France, and, sans cell phones, found and surprised me there! It was pretty amazing.
Heidi and our friend Christi are pretty much responsible for the fact that I now go to restaurants that serve more than hamburgers. They ignored my pleas of “But I’m just picky,” and dragged me to ethnic restaurant after ethnic restaurant until I finally surrendered to the delicious beauty that is vegetables smothered in a coconut curry sauce.
So when Heidi asked if I’d be up for helping her make this stuffed pumpkin meal (she wanted to try it out before serving it at a party), I was game. After looking at the recipe, we knew we’d be cooking for a while, so naturally, we sat down to a pre-cooking dinner first.
Three hours later, we were done. I’m not kidding. It took two of us three hours of straight work to complete this meal. So yeah, “epic” is an appropriate descriptor. This stuffed pumpkin is definitely a meal you don’t want to tackle alone. Or, if you do, make it in stages…starting about 3 nights before. Make-ahead stages – totally possible with this meal.
We dubbed it the “Stuffed Pumpkin Cave of Wonders” because there is a lot going on in this meal. Chicken thighs are first browned, then roasted into juicy, flavorful goodness, then picked apart. Fall root vegetables create a canvas of color on a roasting pan and are simply roasted with oil, salt, and pepper. The pumpkin is gutted, rubbed with oil, and roasted whole alongside everything else. Then, all the chicken and all the vegetables plus a apples, stock, and butter are thrown together in a massive party inside the pumpkin and roasted for a little while longer.
You will not want to cut into this pumpkin. It’s so pretty, lid off, with a mix of fall-colored goodness inside. You will really just want to take pictures of it for the next 4 days. But then you will cut into it, and the orange of the pumpkin will make you happy you live somewhere with seasons. And then you will taste it. And fall will explode in your mouth. And you will forget about the 3 hours of work you just put into it all. And you will be so happy there are leftovers to eat. And you will want to eat them for breakfast, this stuffed pumpkin is so good.
Pick a Saturday afternoon, call your favorite cooking buddy over, and make this soon!
P.S. Tell me the low point of your hair history.
We adapted this recipe quite a bit, based on what we could find at the farmers' market that morning. We left out the sugar snap peas because the fall crop wasn't ready yet and instead doubled the green beans. We didn't use the chestnuts because we forgot to get them, and we nixed the turnips and the celery root because they were not to be had at the farmers' market. In their place, we added a few more carrots and parsnips each. So I'm guessing the flavor of this would be changed considerably with the celery root, but either way, this stuffed pumpkin was full of deliciousness. Finally, as we were eating it, we definitely regretted not using more apples, so I'm adding 2 more to my version of the recipe.
10 brussel sprouts, trimmed
12 oz. green beans, trimmed
1 cheese (or cinderella) pumpkin, about 10 pounds, seeded, top reserved
3/4 c. + 1 tbsp. olive oil (plus more as needed)
10 chicken thighs and legs, skin on
1 c. chicken stock (low sodium preferred)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
5 medium baking apples, cored and sliced into wedges
12 oz. baby white potatoes, quartered
2 leeks, halved and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-in. slices, light green & white parts only
7 carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-in. slices
5 parsnips, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-in. slices
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-in. cubes
2 tbsp. garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375*.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add brussel sprouts, and cook about 2 minutes (or until tender-crisp). Remove with slotted spoon and transfer to an ice-water bath. Repeat with the green beans. Drain both vegetables and set aside.
Rub inside of pumpkin and cut side of its top with olive oil (about 3 tbsp.). Place pumpkin and top on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and roast until they are tender but still holding shape, about 1 hour. Then set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook chicken until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove excess fat from skillet. Repeat until all the chicken is done, adding 1 tbsp. of oil for each batch. Place browned chicken on a greased baking sheet (I lined mine with foil first).
Roast chicken (at 375*) until golden brown and cooked through, about 45 minutes. Reserve roasting pan juices.
(Once chicken is roasted and cooled, pick meat off bones and set aside).
Quick, before you forget! Add chicken stock to the skillet you just roasted the chicken in, and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom. After it's boiled for a minute, pour the entire contents of the skillet juices/broth into a bowl and set aside.
Heat butter in a large skillet (we used the same one as the chicken) over medium heat. Add apples and cook, stirring occasionally until golden and softened, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile again, combine potatoes, leeks, carrots, parsnips, and squash in a large bowl. Top with a 1/2 c. oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread vegetables on a single layer on a greased (foil lined!) baking sheet (we had to use two pans to get them all to fit.)
and roast (at 375*) until tender, about 40 minutes. Then (after the 40 minutes), add the brussel sprouts, green beans, apple mixture, garlic, and toss. Roast until garlic is golden brown and added vegetables are warmed through, about 10 more minutes.
Finally! combine chicken, roasted vegetables, parsley, stock, and 2 tablespoons reserved roasting pan juices in a large bowl. Stir. Put inside roasted pumpkin and roast until everything is heated through, about 15 minutes. (We didn't roast the pumpkin top this time).