Day 25 of 31 days of pumpkin and we return to the fondue concept and get it right, with a little help from Ruth Reichl, God Bless her. She was interviewed by Terry Gross for Fresh Air on NPR on October 14, 2009. I was deep into this pumpkin project and in the kitchen, in fact, when I heard Ruth Reichl start to describe this mouth-watering concoction. I immediately added it to the cue and now the day has finally come when I get to taste it and share my version of her recipe with you.
If you want to hear the exact moment that Ruth describes this dish in her interview, advance to 9:13 when you click on the NPR audio link.
She describes a recipe that appears in her new book, Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen and that recipe is reprinted on the Gourmet website. In my adaptation, I cut the recipe in half, used solely Gruyère, and used half-and-half instead of heavy cream as per Ruth Reichl’s description.
For those of you who have been following along closely, it might feel like a repeat for me to be trying what amounts to another fondue recipe. You’ll remember, my first attempt at fondue in a pumpkin was a moderate success at best. In that instance, I baked the pumpkin separately and made the fondue on the stove. Then I poured one into the other and dipped in apple chunks. It was difficult for me to get the texture of the cheese sauce just right. By comparison, this recipe lets the ingredients do the work for you. I love that. It’s like the pumpkin is your crock pot.
Cheesy Bread in a Pumpkin
Thanks to Ruth Reichl
1 7-inch piece of baguette
1 3 1/2 lb pumpkin
3/4 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups Gruyère cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F (You may choose to reduce the part of the way through the pumpkin baking time, but I’ll get to that later).
2. Cut the baguette into one-inch slices and cut those into cubes. Lay them on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 7 minutes.
3. Mix the half-and-half, broth and nutmeg together.
4. Cut the top off of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Place a layer of bread on the bottom. Layer about 1/3 of the cheese on top of the bread and pour about 1/3 of the chicken broth mixture on top. Repeat with two more layers. Place the top back on the pumpkin and brush the outside of the pumpkin with olive oil.
5. IMPORTANT: Place the pumpkin in a baking pan (to catch possible cheese drippings that leak out the bottom) sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and place in the oven. Bake for about an hour, maybe 1 1/4 hours. The pumpkin should get charred a little bit. Don’t worry. But if you think it’s overcharring, reduce the heat to 350˚F and just keep on baking until time is up.
6. Do a few extra scrapes of nutmeg on the grater to garnish and serve immediately.