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.
This recipe has proved to be hugely successful with many of my friends! From the first time I made it I followed every detail to the letter,but have since made s!ight adjustments here & there. However I regularly return to the original and can’t say how many times I’ve been asked to write it down or email to friends. Ingredients and method so easy I’d almost do it with my eyes closed you’ll guess I’m quite a fan thankyou!
Many thanks for the vote of confidence, Valerie! This is indeed a great recipe, which I owe to my Paris friend Valérie — especially at this time of year.
Do you have a lactose free version?
Hello Roger. Yes, this could be made in a lactose-free version, but it would be a very different dish without the cream and especially the cheese. I’d suggest going Asian. Sauté the mushrooms in a neutral vegetable oil instead of olive oil and butter, substitute coconut milk for the cream and cilantro for the parsley, and grate a small knob of ginger to substitue for the cheese. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out!
I just harvested my first potimarron from my garden, and am looking forward to trying your recipe! Nice addition to my usually ordinary meals. I have never before seen a potimarron, much less eaten it. The recipe will no doubt be a success, and I thank you!
Susan, that’s exciting! Did you plant potimarrons as a result of reading this recipe? I’ve never actually seen one outside of France. What I can tell you is that I first had this dish at the home of a friend, who served it as a main dish. She is full of culinary surprises, so we didn’t know what to expect. It was fun for each guest to be presented with their own mini-pumpkin. A hush fell over the table as we dug in. The combination of flavors was just dazzling. I hope you achieve the same success.
Hi, Thanks for this lovely recipe. I don’t have creme fraiche or Comte cheese (and no chance of getting any since I’m in Washington, D.C. where we’re getting snowed in). Can I sub half & half mixed with sour cream for creme fraiche? And can I sub swiss or mozzarella for the Comte cheese?
Hi Peggy. Sure — half and half mixed with sour cream would be a fine substitute for crème fraîche, or you could also use heavy cream if you happen to have any on hand. Ditto the cheese — mozzarella and/or Swiss would work. Even cheddar would be delicious in this recipe. Meantime I hope you can ride out the snow with plenty of food and drink at hand. Just checked the morning headlines here in Paris, and it looks like this storm could be a record-breaker in Washington. Stay warm!
I am drooling over this recipe, Meg! Dorie Greenspan has a similar stuffed pumpkin recipe, which I’ve made a few times (though she uses a bit of old bread). It’s one of my favorite fall dishes… oh, how I miss potimarron from the marché!