Saturday, December 1

Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew

The Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew was the centerpiece of the Vegetarian portion of our Thanksgiving, which comprises about half of our family. The recipe came from Gourmet Magazine, but I made a couple of adjustments to get to the final product. I was a little nervous that this was going to be all flair and not very tasty, but actually it was really quite delicious and satisfying. I would make this again for any kind of Fall dinner party. Serve with a rice pilaf to soak up the sauce.

The original recipe called for one large baking pumpkin, but of course, none of the four stores we visited had any and the best I could find were actually in the floral department. Using three smaller pumpkins worked out well though because I was able to make one stew without mushrooms for those who don't dig the fungus.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew

1 fennel bulb with fronds
2 medium parsnips (1/2 pound total), peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound celery root (sometimes called celeriac; 1/2 of 1 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
14 small shallots (about 1 pound), peeled and left whole, plus 1/2 cup chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided 2 red bell peppers
1 (8- to 9-lb) pumpkin (preferably cheese, pie, or Sweet Meat variety)
Roasted-vegetable and wine sauce, heated
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1 package dried chanterelle mushrooms, resuscitated
1/2 pound seitan (seasoned wheat gluten), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon chopped thyme, divided
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Roast root vegetables (day before):
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1 tablespoon and reserve, then discard stalks and remaining fronds. Halve bulb lengthwise, then core and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wedges.

Toss fennel wedges, parsnips, celery root, carrots, and whole shallots with 2 tablespoons oil, teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan until coated, then roast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and almost tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove vegetables from oven. Leave oven on.

Prepare peppers and pumpkins while vegetables roast:
Roast peppers on racks of gas burners over high heat, turning with tongs, until skins are blistered, 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer peppers to a bowl and let stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers and discard stems and seeds. Cut peppers lengthwise into 1-inch strips.

Remove top of pumpkins by cutting a circle (6 inches in diameter) around stem with a small sharp knife. Scrape out and discard seeds and any loose fibers from inside pumpkin with a spoon (including top of pumpkin; do not discard top), then sprinkle flesh with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Put pumpkins in a large roasting pan.

Stuff and roast pumpkins:
Pour 1/2 cup sauce into each pumpkin and cover with top, then brush all over with remaining tablespoon oil. Roast 1/2 hour.

While pumpkins roast, heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté chopped shallots until softened. Add mushrooms and sauté until they are browned and begin to give off liquid, about 8 minutes. Add wheat gluten and 1/2 teaspoon thyme, then stir in 1 1/2 cups more sauce and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and fold in roasted root vegetables and peppers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

After pumpkins have roasted 1/2 hour, spoon vegetable filling into it, then cover with top. Roast until pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork, vegetables are tender, and filling is hot, about 30 minutes more. Transfer pumpkin to a platter using 2 sturdy metal spatulas.

Stir together fennel fronds, parsley, zest, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme and sprinkle half of it over filling. Stir remainder into remaining sauce and serve sauce on the side. Serve with Rice Pilaf to soak up sauce.

Roasted-Vegetable and Wine Sauce

1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise
5 carrots, quartered
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
2 red bell peppers, quartered
1 pound plum tomatoes, halved
1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded and bulb quartered
2 large onions, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup boiling water
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (1 cup)
1 (4-inch) piece celery
4 parsley stems
1 large thyme sprig
8 black peppercorns
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 cup dry red wine
4 quart water
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil; 1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Roast vegetables:
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Wash leek halves and pat dry.

Toss leek, carrots, garlic, bell peppers, plum tomatoes, fennel, and onions with oil, then spread in a 17- by 14-inch roasting pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until well browned and tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Soak porcini and make bouquet garni while vegetables roast:
Pour boiling water over porcini in a bowl and soak until softened, 10 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wrap celery, parsley stems, thyme sprig, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with string.

Lift out porcini, squeezing excess liquid back into bowl, and rinse to remove any grit. Pour soaking liquid through a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into another bowl.

Make stock:
Transfer roasted vegetables to a 6- to 8-quart pot and add wine to roasting pan, then deglaze pan by boiling, scraping up brown bits, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine to vegetables in pot along with water (4 quarts), porcini and soaking liquid, bouquet garni, sun-dried tomatoes, and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until stock is reduced to about 6 cups, about 2 hours. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing firmly on and then discarding solids.

Make sauce:
Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add stock in a stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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