A Henry Halloween

“Is Halloween a special time for your family?” asked Kim staring wide-eyed at giant spiders dangling in every corner, at remarkably life-like blackbirds perched atop paintings, fridge, and  window sills, and at assorted cobwebs everywhere. This weekend’s trip to Columbia County yielded an orange hoard. The Henry house now holds 21 pumpkins – 18 orange ones for the kids’ carving party, two fat ones for the Henrys’ personal carving, and one heirloom red for cooking – as well as two dozen gourds. pumpkin.jpg

The Halloween party dinner will feature a Thanksgiving-style turkey, baked ham, chili, and guacamole (don’t cavil – everybody loves it) For dessert there will be pumpkin cupcakes with butter cream icing, caramel apples, baked “shrunken head” apples with faces carved by each child, and, of course, cheeses. Mr. Henry’s contribution will be a baked stuffed pumpkin.

Take either an heirloom red, heirloom beige pumpkin, or Japanese kabocha (any pumpkin will do), cut the top as though carving a jack-o-lantern, spoon out the seeds and pith, stuff with a dry stuffing, and replace the top. Mr. Henry can’t decide between wild rice flavored with pomegranate syrup and pancetta (a recipe borrowed from Diana and Fred) or good old American bread stuffing slightly enhanced by nutmeg and sultanas.

In either case, the trick is to prepare the stuffing rather dry. The pumpkin’s moisture steams it in baking. An already moist stuffing will puddle and seep carrying away delicate juices. Also, oil the pumpkin’s surface to help it keep its shape. Bake at 350-400, whatever suits the other things you’ve got baking in the oven, until a fork pierces the flesh, about 40 minutes for a medium to large pumpkin.

The result makes a marvelous presentation, a storybook illustration from a medieval tale. Most remarkable of all, it is an orange vegetable dish the children will devour.

5 Responses to “A Henry Halloween”

  1. Motormouth October 26, 2006 at 9:00 am #

    As one cannot live in autumnal New England without being bombarded by the presence of pumpkins at every turn, I appreciate this new pumpkin recipe. I’ve been peeling it and cutting it into chunks and using it to line the bottom of roasting pans. We also had pumpkin topped with homemade chili the other day. Mmmmm….

  2. joanie October 29, 2006 at 4:05 pm #

    I would actually *really* like to try this – any ideas on where I could find a more specific recipe? I’ve found my attempts at creating things otherwise can easily run afoul….

  3. Mr. Henry October 30, 2006 at 7:30 pm #

    Dear Joanie

    Mr. Henry has never read a recipe for whole baked pumpkin. Pretend you are an early settler in the American frontier, or better yet a native American (after all, their nutritional achievements far outstripped those of the English), and just bake the thing with whatever seems to enhance its natural aromas. Even one baked empty turns out just dandy.

    For a rich accompaniment, try Cabot’s sour cream. It’s divinely rich and seems to marry with almost anything. Mr. Henry likes it in the morning on raisin pecan bread or even on a banana.

  4. Kourtney October 31, 2006 at 5:36 pm #

    I thought the stuffed pumpkin seemed a grand idea. I mentioned it to the husband with some enthusiasm, and his response led me to believe that in his books, a nice pie crust & some whipping cream are the only possible things you could add to pumpkin.

  5. La BellaDonna November 17, 2006 at 4:07 pm #

    Cornbread? Would cornbread stuffing marry well with this so-American vegetable? Does it long for a little cheese, as well? Hmmmm.