sausage and kale stuffed pumpkin

The last time I carved a pumpkin was 3 years ago. Tonight was a little different though... the goal wasn't to make a decoration but rather to make dinner. I first learned about this stuffed pumpkin concept from a guy at work. We were talking about Halloween and I said how excited I was to have trick-or-treaters this year (optimistically). He said that his family was HUGE into Halloween and one of their traditions was to make stuffed pumpkins that they eat at the end of the night.

Obviously, I had to immediately look this whole stuffed pumpkin thing up immediately... and then take 3 weeks to actually make it. Allegedly, you can use any type of pumpkin for this activity but I couldn't bare to loose any of my decorative white pumpkins until the very end. I actually had everything I needed for this recipe without leaving the house. I opted to upgrade to some gruyere cheese because it was only $4 at Trader Joes - and Gruyere cheese is always a good decision. Bonus points for the kale coming from my garden. It was pretty thrilling to still be eating from the garden almost five months later.

A few things to note about this recipe:
  • Clean out your fridge // This is a perfect opportunity to get rid of all the things about to go bad and/or filling up your freezer. Use whatever cheese you have on hand. The important thing in my book is to have a meat, a green, and a cheese. 
  • Prep ahead // The prep side of this meal is what stopped me from making it at least 3 other times before today. The steps make it seem more arduous than it really is... but the pumpkin carving part is no joke. It might not take A LOT of time but its real physical work as opposed to the quick chop of an onion and then the time spent cooking the onion. Moral of the story is carve the pump ahead of time. You can even do all the prep and stuff the pumpkin probably a day in advance. Just store the pumpkin in the fridge in the meantime.
  • Sides // This meal is impressive - and delicious. But it isn't necessarily enough to be a full meal. I was originally going to serve this will some marinated kale salad but it was raining too hard for me to get more from the garden. Greens are probably a good idea. I might even add in a grain like cous cous, wild rice, or quinoa.
  • Pumpkin // I used a small-ish pumpkin that I bought at Trader Joes. I think it was probably about 6-7 inches in diameter? This size would be ideal for maybe 4 people when served with a side. As a result, I cut the ingredients in half when I was cooking. Just use your judgement. Extra stuffing is a blessing. I literally ate all the extra stuffing and a slice of the stuffed pumpkin.
In the interest of being real confusing about what month it is. I ate this stuffed pumpkin dinner in front of my Christmas tree - which I put up today. I regret nothing.
Here's how it goes.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and clean it out like you would if you were making a jack-o-lantern.
  2. Combine the bread cubes and Gruyère in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the sausage and break it into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Transfer the sausage to the bowl with the bread and cheeses
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened - which might be about 5 minutes. Add the wine, using the wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. 
  5. Add your chosen green and stir until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Kale might not wilt a lot - mine didn't - but don't worry about it too much.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, Dijon, 2 teaspoons salt, thyme, and pepper until combined to make the custard. Pour the custard over the bread mixture and gently toss to coat. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  7. Fill the pumpkin with your mixture. Hopefully you have extra ... and you can just bake it in a small dish on the side. Fit the “lid" back onto the pumpkin and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 1-2 hours. You'll know its done when you can poke the pumpkin with a fork easily.
  8. About 45 minutes before its done, remove the lid  and sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese. Obviously this isn't required but it'll be delicious. 
  9. Slice the pumpkin into large wedges and serve.
Shopping List (based on this Kitchn recipe)
1 large baking pumpkin (approximately 5 to 10 pounds)
1 (1-pound) loaf day-old crusty bread, such as sourdough or French baguette
1 1/2 cups (about 5 1/2 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, such as canola
1 pound uncooked Italian sausage or bulk sausage, any casings removed
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 to 3 heaping cups greens (kale, spinach, etc), coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half (or 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for the top

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