When mother nature gives you pumpkins, why not use them? This stuffing recipe uses a hollowed out pumpkin | heirloom pumpkin | winter squash as a cooking dish, that the stuffing is place into and roasted. As cooking stuffing in a turkey is has several issues, food safety with the temperature of the stuffing coming up to a safe to eat temperature of at least 165°F | 74°C, the turkey surrounding the stuffing is overcooked, dry and a disappointment. Using the pumpkin as a cooking vessel versus a casserole dish exposes less surface area of the stuffing while cooking, so it steams with the pumpkin as it cooks, creating a moist texture similar to stuffing that comes out of a turkey, making an excellent side dish, that is also an edible serving dish.
Begin by cutting the loaf of bread into 1-inch cubes. Place the cubed bread on a sheet tray and let it dry out. This can be done a day in advance, or for quicker results, place the cubed bread into a 200°F | 93°C oven for at least an hour, until the bread is dry and lightly toasted.
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the butter and allow to brown slightly (the butter will bubble and begin to smell nutty, about 2 minutes). Add the leeks and sauté for 6 minutes, until tender. Add the onions, shallots and celery to the leeks, stirring periodically for another 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, seasoning with salt. Remove mixture from the pan, and place into a large bowl. Place the pan back over medium heat, and add the cut bacon (medium-thick pieces). Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered out and the bacon becomes slightly crispy on the edges. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and add to the bowl with the leeks. Using a flat-edged spatula or other utensil, add the ground pork and break up any lumps of meat as it cooks, seasoning with the remaining salt.
Once all the meat is fully cooked, add sage and pumpkin seeds, and cook for another minute. Transfer the meat to the reserved leek mixture and mix well, along with the cubed bread. In a large measuring cup or pitcher, blend together the beer and stock, and pour over the stuffing. Squeeze the bread with your hands to help fully saturate the cubes. Taste the stuffing and adjust the seasoning.
As this is cooking, hollow out the pumpkin and remove all its seeds. If the gourd is thick (more than 1-1/2 inches), par-bake the pumpkin for 20 minutes before stuffing. Lightly stuff the pumpkin with the stuffing (do not over-pack). Place the pumpkin in a roasting pan, or on a sheet tray or other large skillet.
Cook the stuffing-filled pumpkin at 350°F | 177°C for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the thickness of the pumpkin. The stuffing is done when the internal temperature is 160°F | 71°C and the pumpkin is fork tender. This can be cooked ahead of time and will keep warm for at least an hour if wrapped in aluminum foil. Serve on either a serving platter or sliced into wedges.
For a vegetarian version, add the sage or pumpkin seeds to the sautéed vegetables, omitting the bacon and pork.
Beer Pairing Suggestions:
With the bounty of seasonal and holiday craft beers filling the shelves, create a flight of different beer styles to pair with these two Thanksgiving staples, taking account of all the other side dishes on the table. Try some new brews and some of your favorites, looking at similar and contrasting flavors to pair. Beer styles with lots of melanoidin character will enhance the natural turkey flavor, along with the sweetness found in pork.