The Art of Darkness

Beef Stew in a Pumpkin Shell

September 8th, 2011 by Cobwebs

If you planted pumpkins (and you’re in the Northern Hemisphere) they should be ready to harvest pretty soon. If you’ve got more than you need for jack-o’-lanterns, a fun and tasty way to use the extras is to serve stew in a pumpkin shell.

Obviously, the best pumpkins to cook with are the kinds meant for cooking, such as Cinderella, cheese, or sugar varieties. A home-grown field pumpkin (which is the kind usually used for jack-o’-lanterns) would probably also have enough flavor to be worthwhile, but a commercially-grown one is going to be pretty bland. If that’s the only kind you can find, you may want to skip cooking the pumpkin and just use it as a serving container instead of part of the meal (put it on a baking sheet and warm it in a 200F oven for about 20 minutes before putting the stew in it).

For the Pumpkin:

10-lb (approx.) pumpkin with no soft spots
2 Tbsp melted butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Rinse any surface dirt off of pumpkin. Cut a lid in the top as you would for a jack-o’-lantern, angling the sides in a bit to keep it from falling in. Scrape out the seeds (save for toasting) and guts, making sure to get rid of any stringy bits.

If you want to get fancy, you can “carve” a face on the side by scraping features very shallowly into the skin. Make sure not to poke any deep holes. (You can also incise a pretty pattern if a jack-o’-lantern face isn’t your thing.)

Brush the insides of the pumpkin with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the lid back on and place it on a sturdy baking sheet. Bake about 45-60 minutes or until just tender when pierced with a fork (remove the lid and poke it on the inside to avoid marring the skin).

You can also use smaller pumpkins as individual bowls if you prefer; prepare as for the large pumpkin but reduce the baking time to 20-30 minutes.

You can bake the pumpkin(s) whilst the stew is cooking, or do it a few hours in advance and re-warm it in a 350F oven for 20 minutes.

For the Stew:

This is my favorite beef stew recipe, but you can substitute any stew you happen to like.

8 oz salt pork, cut in 1/2″ strips
1 tsp olive oil
3 lbs beef chuck, patted dry and cut in 1-1/2″ cubes
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
4 large garlic cloves–you guessed it–roughly chopped
1 generous Tbsp tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp dried thyme
1 2″ strip orange peel (be careful not to get the white pith)
1 bay leaf
2-3 dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
3 C beef broth
1 C stout, such as Guinness
Salt and pepper to taste

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour

8 oz button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
2 large carrots, cut into large dice
2 potatoes, cut into large dice

Put the salt pork and oil in a large heavy pot (I use a cast iron Dutch oven) and cook over low heat until all of the fat has rendered and the remaining pork bits are brown and crispy. Remove pork with a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl. Working in batches, brown the beef cubes in the rendered fat over medium-high heat, making sure not to crowd the pot, transferring the meat to the bowl when brown.

Reduce the heat and add the onion and carrots, adding a little more olive oil if necessary. Cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, thyme, orange peel, bay leaf, and porcinis (if using) and stir for 1 minute, then return all of the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the beef broth and stout, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2-1/2 hours. Cool slightly.

Drain, reserving liquid, and separate the beef from all of the other solid stuff. Toss all of the solids; they were just there to add character and nobility to the liquid. Put the liquid in a saucepan and boil until reduced to about 2 cups.

If you want to have carrots, potatoes, or other root vegetables in your finished stew, cut them into large dice and cook in a pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt the butter in the heavy pot over medium-low heat. If using button mushrooms, add them now and sauté until brown (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle flour over melted butter (or buttery mushrooms) and stir for 2-3 minutes until no raw flour is visible. Slowly add the stew liquid, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat until smooth and thickened, about 5 minutes.

Return the beef to the thickened liquid, add cooked root vegetables if using, and add salt and pepper to taste. Carefully pour stew into the pumpkin (which should still be sitting on the sturdy baking sheet), replace top, and return to the oven for 30 minutes more.

When serving, scoop out some of the pumpkin flesh (being careful not to poke clear through) along the stew.

Serves 4-6.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 6 Comments »

6 Responses

  1. Sisifo Says:

    Back when I gave birth to the first hybrid (October 24th, I SO wanted a Halloween baby) a neighbor brought us soup in a pumpkin. It was so good, but we’ve since moved so I can’t ask her for the recipe. Thanks for this!

  2. LimeyFish Says:

    This is neat! I have another pumpkin-based recipe, a dessert with walnuts, dried cherries and cranberries, and maple syrup. (I’ve put it up online, but didn’t want to put a link here without your okay, Cobwebs) All we need now is a pumpkin-based salad course, and we can have a pumpkin feast!

  3. xJane Says:

    …can I invite myself to dinner?

  4. LimeyFish Says:

    Okay, since Cobwebs gave the go-ahead, here’s a link to the pumpkin dessert:

    I’ve made this every year for the past three, and it’s always a big hit.

  5. Sisifo Says:

    Just wondering, how much stew does your recipe make?

  6. Cobwebs Says:

    Heh. I should probably mention that somewhere. The base recipe serves 4. With the pumpkin, it’ll probably serve 6.

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