A potimarron is a type of pumpkin grown in France that is generally no more than 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter, with sweet flesh and a thin skin. That makes it ideal for this dish, as it cooks rather quickly, even when filled, and is entirely edible, skin and all. This recipe was kindly contributed by Valérie Lapierre, a fabulously creative everyday chef, who assures me that it works equally well with regular pumpkins, preferably small.
1 small pumpkin
3 medium onions, finely minced
1/4 lb. (125 g.) fresh mushrooms or 1 ounce (25 g.) dried morels or porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. butter
1 branch fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup broth or dry white wine
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 cup grated comté or a similar cheese
Wash and dry the pumpkin. Cut a small circle around the stem and remove the cap, as if making a jack-o-lantern. When you do this, go in with your knife at an angle, with the point going toward the center of the pumpkin. This will help prevent the cap from falling into the pumpkin as it bakes. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and stringy pulp from the pumpkin and discard. But be careful to leave a good solid wall of flesh inside. Set aside.
If you are using dried mushrooms, place them in a small bowl, boil some water and steep for 20 minutes in just enough water to cover. Drain, reserving the liquid.
If you are using fresh mushrooms, wash them thoroughly, cut off the bottoms of the stems and slice in half lengthwise, then into slices crosswise.
In a frying pan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. butter to sizzling. Add the mushrooms and cook 10 minutes. The mushrooms should be soft and slightly golden. Set aside.
In a separate heavy-bottomed pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. butter to sizzling. Add the minced onions. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are wilted and golden. Add the thyme, salt and pepper.
While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (400 F, 205 C).
Add the mushrooms to the onions and turn up the heat to medium. Add 1/4 cup liquid: vegetable broth, chicken broth, white wine or the reserved liquid from the dried mushrooms. Allow this to cook down briefly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cream, the grated cheese and the parsley. Taste and correct the seasoning. Remove from heat.
Spoon this mixture into your pumpkin. It should fill the pumpkin right to the top. Place the cap on the pumpkin. Set the pumpkin in a baking dish and bake until tender, 45-60 minutes depending on the size of the pumpkin. Serves 1-2 very generously, and 3-4 as a side dish.
The most convenient and beautiful way to serve the pumpkin is as an individual main dish. Simply place it on a dinner plate, with some herbs as garnish along side. However, this dish is rich, and unless your pumpkin is tiny you may want to serve it in smaller individual portions, or serve it on more than one occasion.
To serve in smaller individual portions, remove the cap and slice the pumpkin in half, then in quarters, or smaller. Place one piece of pumpkin on each plate and spoon the filling over it. Decorate with fresh herbs.
To serve any leftover pumpkin on a separate occasion, cut it into manageable pieces — cubes about 1 inch (2.5 cm) square. Place the cubes and the filling in a buttered baking dish and return to the oven briefly to reheat. Sprinkle with more parsley before serving.