Meatless Mondays: Roasted Pumpkin With Cheese Fondue
Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.
I had friends over for dinner this weekend. These folks live next door to me on an organic produce farm, so they’re very much in touch with the weather and the effect it has on the plants, the earth, and us.
Everyone at the table will miss the longer, warmer days of summer, but in an attempt to find a silver lining to fall and the winter to come, we each took turns pointing out some things that we’re looking forward to. Sweaters were high on everyone’s list, as were fires and stews. By the time we got to the farmer, I thought we had pretty much covered the bases for the pleasures of cooler weather. Without hesitation, she said, “Pumpkins. Cheese pumpkins.”
Sure, pumpkins are great, but now that we’re past Halloween, they’ve lost some of their charm. We’ll see them start to freeze and rot as their carved smiles slump into frowns. But the cheese pumpkin—now that is a special treat.
Cheese pumpkins, or more formally, Long Island cheese pumpkins, have a silky texture and a squashy sweetness that far exceeds expectations of what a pumpkin can taste like. One recipe that I go back to year after year is one that I learned about in the test kitchens of Gourmet magazine. The pumpkin is hollowed out and filled with layers of bread, cream, and cheese before it is baked whole. The finished dish is a showstopper. I bring it to the table straight out of the oven with a ladle and let people serve themselves. They scoop the filling out along with the sweet flesh of the pumpkin and always ask for the recipe. Well, here it is—just one more thing to look forward to now that it’s chilly.
Roasted Pumpkin With Cheese Fondue
Serves 8 (main course) to 12 (first course)
1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 (seven-pound) cheese pumpkin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (6 ounces)
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Emmentaler (6 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450° F.
Toast the baguette slices on a baking sheet in the oven until the tops are crisp (bread will still be pale), about 7 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Remove the top of the pumpkin by cutting a circle around the stem with a small sharp knife. Scrape out the seeds and any loose fibers with a spoon, including the top of pumpkin. (Reserve seeds for another use if desired.) Season the inside of the pumpkin with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Whisk together the cream, stock, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Mix together cheeses in another bowl.
Put a layer of the toast in the bottom of the pumpkin, then cover with about 1 cup cheese and about 1/2 cup of the cream mixture. Continue layering the bread, cheese, and cream mixture until the pumpkin is filled to about 1/2 inch from the top, using all of the cream mixture. (You may have some bread and cheese left over.)
Cover the pumpkin with the top and put in an oiled small roasting pan. Brush the outside of the pumpkin all over with olive oil. Bake until the pumpkin is tender and the filling is puffed, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.