Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Stuffed with Deliciousness and More: On Cooking with My Kids

Before I had children, while living in Hong Kong, I had a small business where my friend IS and I taught young children how to cook.  (We called it Short Chefs.)  She was more the business end of it, taking care of sourcing things, finding students, explaining to parents what we did, mostly because her Cantonese was better than mine.  I was the face of the operation, the actual teacher, the one who came up with the recipes and figured out what I would teach, how I would break a recipe down and how we would get the kids cooking what they needed to cook.  I prepared the materials, recipe cards, and helped produce these little booklets as well as labels so that our students could go home with a completed dish or a bunch of cookies or something to show for their work.  Every Saturday we'd be busy with multiple session of kids, teaching them how to make something and getting them through recipes. It was a fun experience and I really learned a lot from it.

However, I will confess something to all of you; I really do not like cooking with my kids.  Perhaps you may judge me, saying, "Well - you're a food blogger, you should love cooking with your kids" but the fact of the matter is that I do not.  I am much faster at cooking alone, and stopping to ask my children to do something when I can do it 100 times more quickly, neatly, precisely than they can simply makes me nuts.  Daughters often WANT to help, asking if they can crack an egg, giving me both the egg and eggshells, or mix something and then leaving a trail of flour all over the table as well as their hair, or just continually asking me WHAT I am making.  I try to pause and let them join in when I can, but usually I am rushing around like a madwoman trying to get the cooking done so that I can be a teacher, a chauffeur, a butt-wiper, emailer, laundry-er, facebooker, or something else.  The cooking is something I prioritize as being an important part of my day, but after that comes many other roles that need to be completed.  My solution for that is that Son and Daughters don't get to cook because it just slows me down.

But then this recipe entered my life.  It is Dorie Greenspan's Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.  She herself calls it an "arts and crafts project" and when I started doing it, I could NOT keep Daughters out of the kitchen.  It was fascinating to them to see me carving the top of a pumpkin and they clamored and got excited asking me what it was to become.  When I explained that it would be dinner, they both got so animated, I decided to put my own reservations aside and include them in the process.  I allowed them to help me do almost everything, and the great thing about this recipe is that it is really a great one to do with your children as a lot of precision and accuracy really isn't all that necessary in this dish.  My kids cleaned out the pumpkin, they cut herbs, crumbled the bacon, cut cheese (with scissors), mixed rice and stuffed it into the pumpkin shells.  They loved every moment of it and were incredibly proud when it came time to eat their dish later that evening.

I made two versions in two different type of pumpkins - one dairy free and one dairy FULL.  Both were yummy in their own right.  I also tried two different types of pumpkins - a Cinderella pumpkin and a sugar pumpkin (sometimes called a pie pumpkin) and I definitely preferred the texture of the sugar pumpkin when cooked.  Don't even bother with the big beautiful Cinderella, because it becomes a bit too stringy and not as lovely soft as the sugar pumpkin.  This is a recipe that invites lots of improvisation, using what you have available to you in your pantry and kitchen.  Don't hesitate to add and subtract those things you might think might be a lovely addition.  I'm sure they will be.

Invite your kids to join you on your special project, and by participating, I bet they'll eat more.  Mine sure did.
Pumpkin Stuffed with Deliciousness and More
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table
Serves 2 as a main course; serves 4 as a side dish

1 3lb sugar pumpkin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled OR 1 sausage chopped (pre cooked kind), OR ham or any other cooked meat
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped or pressed (add more if you like)
1/4 lb of cheese - choose cheddar, gruyere, gouda, jack, Emmenthal - cut into cubes (rough chop is fine)
1/4 cup chives or scallions
1/2 cup heavy cream (or less depending on how much rice actually fits into the pumpkin)

Preheat oven to 350.  Using  a sharp knife, cut the top of the pumpkin off.  (Inserting your knife at 45 degree angle and slowly cutting around works best.)  Carefully remove the top.

Scoop out all the seeds and all string.  Using a spoon to scrape the inside and then scooping out with your hands is the best method.  (Daughters did this.)  Season inside liberally with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, get all bacon or sausage, cheese, garlic, chives and rice all mixed together.  If you want a short cut, use a pair of scissors to cut up all the ingredients.  Season if necessary. (Cheese and bacon will season, but just in case.)

Place pumpkin into casserole dish.  Take rice filling and begin stuffing the cavity of the pumpkin with the rice mixture.  Pack it almost to the top.

Carefully pour 1/2 cup of cream over the mixture.  You want it well moistened but not swimming in cream.

Seal the pumpkin back with the lid.  Bake for 1 1/2 to  2 hours, until the side of the pumpkin can be easily pierced with a knife.  Check oven at 1 1/2 hours to make sure it is not over cooked.  (Although it is pretty hard to mess up.)

When the pumpkin is tender enough, remove lid.  Begin pulling cooked pumpkin from the side into the center of the rice and mixture and being swirling it together. 

Scoop out fragrant, steaming spoonfuls into bowls.  Enjoy!

**Dairy-free option.  Leave out cheese.  Use 2 cups of rice and toss it with the ingredients.  Instead of cream, mix equal parts of coconut milk and chicken stock to moisten the rice.  Pour over on top.  Cook everything else as directed.

Printable recipe

The book from where this recipe came.

Beautiful square baker that I love


Fuat Gencal said...

Ellerinize sağlık, çok leziz, çok güzel ve iştah açıcı görünüyor.


roxan said...

This is super cute... I bet your kids had a blast making it. I think it would be a great dish to take to a holiday get together too!
About your kids in the kitchen slowing you down, it's nice that you try to answer questions when you can :) My mom wouldn't... she always shooed me out of the kitchen and now I am learning how to cook korean from cookbooks.

julie said...

wow...that's a great idea for a pumpkin. Looks like it would be delicious... just in time for Fall!

Sippity Sup said...

A pumpkin is a sure way to get the kids involved in the kitchen this time of year! GREG

Kim said...

I made this tonight for my family. Everyone enjoyed it... my son requested that I pack this for his lunch (he is in preschool) so that means he really liked it! Thanks for recipe!

Sunshine [at] The Culinary Vampire said...

This looks so good! I am def making this soon!

PostpartumDiva said...

I made this tonight with my 2 year old daughter, and it came out great. I forgot the heavy creme at the end, but it still came out delicious, and now i can still my calories! :-)

Holly said...

Quite worthwhile info, thank you for the article.


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