Monday, October 14, 2013

Mac and Cheese in a Pumpkin from MELT

Creamy macaroni and cheese with bits of Italian sausage baked in a pie pumpkin from the new cookbook MELT:  The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord

Mac and Cheese in a Pumpkin from MELT

I'm going to talk about this recipe first, then the cookbook where I got it.  Before I get too wordy, some notes:
MELT will be on sale on 22 October 2013.  You can preorder a copy from a variety of vendors, check here for a list of links (link to meltmacaroni.com website).
If you preorder a copy, or even if you don't, you can participate in a $500 Le Creuset cookware giveaway!  Click here for details on the giveaway (link to meltmacaroni.com website). 
I received a review copy* of MELT and chose to post my experience making this recipe from the book because it's tasty and uses seasonal vegetables from my CSA farm share.  I am not involved in the cookware giveaway (just passing the info along to you), I do not benefit from the links posted above, nor was I compensated for this post.  I do get to keep the cookbook, though, which rocks.
Mac and Cheese in a Pumpkin from MELT

What's all the fuss about baking in pumpkins? 

When I see photos of things baked in pumpkins I tend to think it's a gimmick, more for the presentation aspect than the actual taste.  I mean, how often do you see photos of the food actually being served? [Yeah, I went there.  Seems only sporting to share reality.]  As it turns out, while the mac and cheese in this recipe is delicious, it's even better baked inside the pumpkin!  How do I know this?  The recipe calls for a 5 pound pumpkin and the largest one I'd gotten from my farm share was only 2 pounds.  So I baked the rest of the mac and cheese in a pretty Polish pottery bowl alongside the pumpkin.  The pumpkin adds a creamy sweet vegetable base to the mac and cheese which is truly amazing.

What if I don't have access to little pumpkins?

Since I've lived around the world where seasonal, traditional American plant items are pretty pricey (I'm talking pumpkins and Christmas trees) I've given this situation a bit of thought.  I would suggest using a can of pumpkin puree (not the pie filling, just the puree) and spreading a layer of canned pumpkin along the bottom and up the sides of a 2-3 quart casserole dish, then adding the filling, covering, and baking as directed below.  No access to canned pumpkin?  Roast whatever winter squash is local to you, and spread that inside a casserole dish, cover and bake.
Mac and Cheese in a Pumpkin from MELT
Mac and Cheese in a Pumpkin from MELT
What's up with the flowers and balloon?  In the middle of assembling the dish the doorbell rang.  Chaos ensued as it does when your deployed spouse adopts 2 elderly wiener dogs (in addition to photobombing Simon).  The wonderful spouse sent me flowers.  So the flowers get to be a part of this post, too. How sweet is that?  Dogs and flowers!  

NOTE: This recipe is not gluten free as written, because I used elbow macaroni containing gluten. To adapt this recipe for a gluten free diet please substitute the gluten free elbow macaroni of your choice.
Check labels to confirm that your other ingredients are also gluten free. Good sources for determining gluten free products can be found here:
http://knowgluten.me/2012/03/31/other-names-for-gluten/
http://glutenfreedoctor.com/gluten-free/
http://www.celiac.com/categories/Safe-Gluten%252dFree-Food-List-%7B47%7D-Unsafe-Foods-%26amp%3B-Ingredients/

Pumpkin Stuffed with Fontina, Italian Sausage, and Macaroni 

Recipe: Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord, Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

1 sugar pumpkin, about 5 pounds (mine was 2 pounds)
sea salt (I used kosher)
freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil (I skipped this)
1/4 pound mild Italian pork sausage
4 ounces elbow macaroni
5 ounces Fontina, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 ounces Gruyere, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (mine was already shredded so I used that)
3 scallions, diced (didn't have anyI used 3 Tablespoons finely chopped onion)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage (didn't have any. Must plant sage next Spring)
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (make sure to rearrange the oven racks so there is space for your pumpkin).  Ok, at this point I'm going to just tell you how I made the recipe because trying to type exactly what's in the book and then add my own comments is making me nuts.  Cut the lid off the top of the pumpkin in a circle just big enough for your hand to fit through.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff as best you can (I like to use a small square plastic scraper for this).  Season the inside of the pumpkin with a couple healthy pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper, then replace the lid, place on a rimmed baking pan, and bake for 45 minutes.
While the pumpkin is baking, make the filling.  Preheat a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the sausage until browned.  If you're using onions, not scallions, sauté them along with the sausage until they are softened.  Set aside.  Cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted water according to package directions--use the lower cooking time, for al dente noodles, and rinse with cold water after draining.
In a large bowl toss together cheeses, sausage, onion or scallion, noodles and herbs.  When the pumpkin has finished baking, remove from the oven and pack the noodle mixture inside.  If you have any extra (I did, because my pumpkin was small) place it in an oven-safe dish.  Pour the cream over the filling(s) and replace the pumpkin lid (use a piece of foil to cover the dish if you have excess filling).  Bake for 45 minutes (still 350 degrees), then remove the lid and bake an additional 15-25 minutes until the filling is set and browned (check at 15 minutes, mine needed to go to 25 minutes).  Remove from oven.
Let the pumpkin rest for 10 minutes before serving. I thought it would be difficult to neatly serve from the top, so I cut the pumpkin into quarters (you could easily do sixths, if you have mad spatial skillz).  Serves 4 to 6.

Mac and Cheese in a Pumpkin from MELT
Photo: Matt Armendariz, Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company
This cookbook starts off as a visual treat.  Mac and cheese is such a comfort food that just looking at the gorgeous photos makes me feel cozy.  And hungry!  I've taken this book along to orthodontist appointments, sports practices, and sewing classes.  Every time I open it I learn something new about cheese and I laugh.
Have you ever compared a cheese to Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride? Stephanie and Garrett did. Along with a host of other stories and tidbits of info, the headnotes for the recipes are like mini blog posts to me. Well worth the read.
The writing is interesting, the photos are drool-worthy, and the recipes I've tried (3 and counting) are tasty.  I've got at least a dozen more bookmarked, from salads to soups to casseroles to desserts, that I will turn to as the seasons progress and my farm share provides.

*So here's the scoop--when Stephanie sent me a message asking if I'd like a review copy, I immediately assumed she had me confused with some larger blogger.  However, not one to miss out on a chance to get a new mac and cheese cookbook, I quickly replied with my address and crossed my fingers that she wouldn't come back and say 'um, sorry, I thought you were someone else'.  She didn't, and boy I'm glad!  Please get a copy of this book! I ended up with two, and my second copy went to my local library because I love reading cookbooks from the library.

This post is shared on Clever Chicks Blog HopTasty TuesdaysWednesday Fresh Foods Link Up

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18 comments:

  1. Ooo...maybe this is what I should do with my pumpkin from my CSA... I love Garrett's blog and I've been waiting for this cookbook. Looks amazing!

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    1. Sam,
      You will not regret it--this is delicious!
      Thanks!

      Delete
  2. Oooh, I have baked things in a pumpkin, but never mac and cheese. I am definitely going to try this soon! Now I just need to buy a few pie pumpkins before they disappear from the stores! Thanks for the perfect recipe!
    Sarah

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    Replies
    1. Sarah,
      Yes, you do need to pick them up while you can--they keep for a good while in a cool dark dry place.
      I was eyeing some white pie pumpkins at the store today, but decided to double check with the farmers before buying any. I still have Tree Squash (my volunteer mutant) which is mostly pumpkin-like, and would hold PLENTY of mac and cheese.
      Thanks!

      Delete
  3. Holy wow, does this look incredible.
    Mac & Cheese out of a real life pumpkin! This is the type of squash I can actually embrace. I'm bookmarking this recipe for sure, and I can't wait to get my greedy little hands on a copy of the book. Mac & Cheese has mine name written all over it; even when it comes in the form of a pumpkin, especially when it comes by way of pumpkin.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Meghan,
      You are very clever with words, you know that?

      Delete
  4. I'm drooling. This looks incredible.

    ~Visiting from Tasty Tuesdays~

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    Replies
    1. Elizabeth,
      I think someone should invent keyboard cloths to catch all the drool. I'd buy a bunch since checking out all the delicious recipes makes me drool, too!
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  5. How kind, Kirsten! I'm so glad you love the book! (And what a neat idea for using canned pumpkin as a substitute!) This is one of my favorite recipes so I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thank you!

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    1. Garrett,
      You're very talented and I'm grateful for the opportunity. Your book is very impressive--such a huge variety of recipes that fall under the 'mac and cheese' umbrella, terrific photos that make me want to make them ALL now, and great ideas for stuff that isn't seasonal now but will be later.
      Thanks!

      Delete
  6. I echo Garrett's sentiment - great idea to use canned pumpkin. I will have to try that myself. :)

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    1. Stephanie!
      Thank you thank you thank you, this was very fun for me and I appreciate the opportunity! I've already riffed on your Sweet Potato Kugel to make a Thanksgiving + Chanukkah mashup. You guys are brilliant!

      Delete
  7. Sounds like a really good cookbook. Chuckled at the comment about comparing Inigo Montoya to cheese! Makes a cookbook so much more than just a tome of recipes.

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    1. Christine,
      You've hit it--it's more than just a tome of recipes. I didn't even touch on all that I learned about cheeses and different types of pasta. It's quite educational in addition to being very entertaining.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  8. This is just gorgeous. And now I'm thinking I NEED this book (like I need another cookbook - my hubby will be rolling his eyes). and speaking of hubbies, yours is very sweet! :)

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    1. Julie,
      It's a pretty surprising book, the sheer scope of delicious-looking recipes it contains. I'd say you need it. And the cookware, too!

      Delete
  9. I had gotten this book out of the library several times and recently again; I enjoyed all of the recipes. We all know that Macaroni and cheese is a staple food; like pumpkin and apple pie. Can't get enough of a good thing. I liked the recipe with the crab-meat or Lobster meat; for me good old macaroni with plenty of cheese baked in the oven until well crusted. I like the chewy texture of a well cooked/crusted macNcheese. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I enjoy getting cookbooks from the library--I learn something new every single time I cozy up with one. Even an old friend cookbook. I like both creamy stove top mac and cheese and that crusted baked one--face it, I just plain like mac and cheese! Thanks!

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