MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And now, down to some seedy business with cookbook author Dorie Greenspan.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. DORIE GREENSPAN (Author, "Around My French Table"): I think I'm at the point where I need a spoon to just scrape the stuff up from the bottom.
NORRIS: We've cut a cap out of a small pumpkin, that little place where the stem sits. And now we're gutting it, something many of us do only before Halloween, but a necessary first step for a recipe Dorie calls Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good.
And the good in this case? Breadcrumbs, gruyere cheese, garlic, scallions, thyme, nutmeg, heavy cream and bacon - crispy bacon.
Now, I know - bacon and pumpkin. I, too, was very skeptical about this combination.
Ms. GREENSPAN: I love this recipe because it has almost no rules. So you can play with it. You can change the filling a million different ways. You could add spinach or chard, or once I used more than once - some leftover cooked rice, and so instead of the breadcrumbs, I put rice in it. It became almost like risotto. Mmm, it's so - you can put nuts, you can put apples, you can put chestnuts.
NORRIS: Whatever you do with it, Dorie says Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good is the perfect cold-weather main course. It's a recipe from her new cookbook, "Around My French Table." And like most of her dishes, it comes with a story.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. GREENSPAN: My friend Helene, my wonderful friend Helene Samuel in Paris, had told me about this dish. And I thought: Oh, that's nice, that's nice. And finally, she said: You know, you're not paying attention to me. This is a great dish. You have to make it. And she said: I'm going to have my sister send you the recipe.
So her sister lives in Lyon. And she said: Here's how I make it, but I'm sure you'll make it a different way, and maybe you'll improve on it. But there was one thing that I couldn't improve on, and that was her pumpkin.
Her husband is a farmer, and he grows pumpkins. And when the pumpkins are very, very small, she goes into the fields with her children, and they carve their name in the pumpkins. And then as the pumpkins grow, their names grow with the pumpkin, and then they each have their own pumpkin to make this dish.
NORRIS: Oh, my goodness.
Ms. GREENSPAN: Isn't that great?
NORRIS: That sounds wonderful - monogrammed.
Ms. GREENSPAN: A monogrammed pumpkin, a personalized pumpkin.
NORRIS: So Dorie, we've carved open our perfect little pumpkin, without monogram but still very cute.
Ms. GREENSPAN: It's really - the shape of this one is particularly nice. It's a very cute pumpkin.
NORRIS: And I take that you don't just throw everything inside the pumpkin. Is there a very careful process for layering all the ingredients?
Ms. GREENSPAN: Guess what? You throw everything into the pumpkin.
NORRIS: Okay. Recipes rarely get easier than this. We mix the bread, cheese, garlic, herbs and yes, the bacon together in a bowl. Then we stuff it into our nearly 3-pound pumpkin.
(Soundbite of stirring)
Next we stir nutmeg, plus some salt and pepper, into heavy cream before pouring it into the pumpkin.
Ms. GREENSPAN: The nutmeg's there because I like it. And I like nutmeg and cheese as a combination. Of course, nutmeg and pumpkin is classic when you're making pies.
NORRIS: We return the top to the pumpkin, that little cap. And then into the oven it goes, 350 degrees for two hours.
While we wait, we talk more about France. Dorie has lived there part time for about 13 years, and while her experiences with French chefs and bakers have influenced her own approach to cooking, there are just some American conveniences she cannot do without.
Ms. GREENSPAN: You can't find canned pumpkin.
NORRIS: Which is a staple here.
Ms. GREENSPAN: I carry it over in my suitcase. I mean, every recipe that you see for a pumpkin puree starts by cutting the pumpkin, roasting it and pureeing it, and...
NORRIS: Which adds quite a bit of time to the preparation.
Ms. GREENSPAN: And good flavor. I mean, there's nothing better than roasted pumpkin. But when I want pumpkin muffins, I want them now.
(Soundbite of laughter)
NORRIS: Here we go.
Ms. GREENSPAN: Let's see how our little baby is doing.
NORRIS: When our baked pumpkin comes out of the oven, it's a deep, burnished orange. It's just beautiful. And the smell - oh, it's heavenly. It's so soft that when I slice it into wedges - wedges draped with melted cheese and bacon -it practically sighs as it gently collapses, surrenders onto my plate.
Oh, and the taste.
Ms. GREENSPAN: Who wouldn't love this?
NORRIS: I can't place it. I mean, the filling is a familiar - you know, the bacon and the cheese and the breadcrumbs. But melding that with the pumpkin is unlike anything I've ever had before.
Ms. GREENSPAN: When I first had it, I had exactly the same feeling, and yet could there be anything more American?
NORRIS: Are you talking to me? I'm sorry.
Ms. GREENSPAN: I'm sorry.
(Soundbite of laughter)
NORRIS: I'm so deep into this dish that I barely heard anything you said -something about this being American, yeah.
Ms. GREENSPAN: It's not important. Well, it's not important. I'm glad you're liking it.
NORRIS: I am. I am, and I know that this is a French dish, but it's become American now because it will definitely get a repeat performance in this American kitchen.
Ms. GREENSPAN: This is exactly, exactly what I'm hoping for. Culinary diplomacy - we'll bring the world together with food.
NORRIS: Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook is "Around My French Table." You can find a picture of Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good and - of course - the recipe at npr.org.
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