So, this happened.
After our doorstep pumpkins were declared contraband in the War on Squirrels, I spent last Sunday afternoon gilding the domestic lily. I spent some time looking for crafty pumpkin-soup-in-a-pumpkin recipes before doing what I always do when it comes to soups and stews. Here’s my magic recipe for anything stew-like:
- Take ingredients you have around.
- Place in cooking receptacle.
- Apply heat until it seems done.
For the record, I make a mean stew. I make lots of mean stews, and the above method is the only recipe I sanction. Anyone who tells you they have a precise recipe for, say, chili, and that they have to make a quick run to the store for paprika before they can get started, is not someone you want to do business with. It’s kind of the only thing I can make successfully, especially since the above cooking method is the only one I know of where I can tend to the food in between the more pressing task of tending to my toddler. Onions and olive oil in a Crock Pot on low aren’t going to burn the house down if you need to step away to read “A Crack in the Track” four times in a row. For this specific affair, here’s the gist of what I did. (Note: Recipe serves like 11. Have a friend over for dinner if your pumpkin is giant.)
- Took the giant, red heirloom pumpkin off the porch before the squirrels ate it.
- Cut the top off at a 45 degree angle and scooped out the seeds and goo, jack-O-lantern style.
- Pre-heated oven to 375 degrees.
- Put a bunch of stuff in the pumpkin, until it was full of stuff. Including:
- Salt and pepper (rubbed into the inside of the pumpkin before the other gear went in)
- A hunk of butter
- Rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, fresh-ground nutmeg that I actually grated over the pumpkin like I’m Martha Stewart
- One Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
- Three little cans of mushrooms
- Chicken broth. I used a whole carton of it, but it was a big ol’ pumpkin
- Olive oil
- More grated parmesan cheese than seems reasonable
- Probably some other stuff… Love? Let’s say I mixed in some love. Wait– No, I meant fennel.
- Put in oven for like three-and-a-half hours
- Took it out of the oven and scooped the soft pumpkin bits into the broth
- Put it in some bowls and put more cheese on top
- Ate the heck out of it
I found a couple pro-tips on the internet before just putting All the Things in a pumpkin. One was from Alton Brown, who said to put the pumpkin in a round casserole dish before putting it in the oven. Everyone else was all, “Oh, it’s cool, just put a pumpkin full of broth on some parchment paper or whatever and put it in the oven. What could go wrong?” My creation sprang a leak about two-and-a-half hours into the baking process, likely due to some over-zealous de-gooing on my part, so I’m glad I listened to Alton Brown. The other pro-tip was from… Someone on the Internet… (I looked at a lot of baked pumpkins before deciding I was going to follow my heart instead of a recipe, so it could have been almost anyone), and [Internet person] recommended putting some foil around the top so it doesn’t fall into the gourd as it cooks. Brilliant. I’m for every cooking tip that keeps me from having to spend the next 10 days scraping bits of charred fall magic from the bottom of my oven.
I toasted the pumpkin seeds in the oven while this was going, and put some buttered apple cider on the stove, and I felt like I had conquered life. It was pretty damned delicious. My father-in-law loved it, Charlie ate every bit of it ravenously, and Andy worked late and ate Fritos and dip when he got home. But he would have found it to be a perfectly acceptable meal, too.
It would have been tastier if it had been made with a different kind of pumpkin, for sure. Our pumpkin was designed for lookin’, not for cookin’, so it wasn’t at all sweet. One of my goals the last couple weeks has been to get Charlie to eat some pumpkin, because it feels seasonally appropriate, and he’d turned up his nose at all previous attempts. He ate a bucket full of it, though was mostly enchanted by the mushrooms, which I’m also okay with.
But then there was the angle I hadn’t considered: A baked gourd has A LOT of fiber in it, and Charlie ate like it was his last meal. So then from 1:30 AM to 3:00 AM, I was up with him as he was screaming like his farts were going to murder him, and we went through two pumpkin diapers. That was less than ideal. I had enough leftovers that I’d planned on giving Charlie a healthy, seasonal vegetable-filled lunch for the next several days, but instead I threw out the surplus to avoid a repeat performance.
And so, I experienced the cycle that I think I’ll continue with for at least the next 17 years: Victory, followed by defeat, followed by five cups of coffee. I’m gonna focus on the victory part for now: Soup baked in a pumpkin! I’m king of the world!