Friday, October 19, 2012

"Meat-in-the-Moon" (Baked Stuffed Pumpkin)

Look at this jaunty little fellow!
After a month full of sweet pumpkin treats, it was nice to find this gem tucked away in the mouthful of a mini cookbook, “The Pumpkin Kid Treats You To: 13 Great Ways to Celebrate Halloween.” Love the Pumpkin Kid: a dancing pumpkin/Robin Hood hybrid. I also love the fact that this mini cookbook was produced by (wait for it): The Halloween Celebration Committee. Wow. If I knew this was a valid professional aspiration back when I was 9, you can bet I would have had a comeback for every endless “And what do you want to be when you grow up, sweetie?” query thrown my way. (Beats my standard answer, a telephone operator, any day.)

Yes, back in 1983, the HCC and the Toy Manufacturers of America teamed up to produce this quite exhaustively thorough guide to all-things Halloween. Inside, there is an extensive history of Halloween; ideas for Halloween activities that quickly move beyond your standard Trick-or-Treating; tips on painting on a clown face; magic tricks; and finally, recipes!

Stuffed and glistening with melted butter.
Meat-in-the-Moon hails from Jamaica, according to the recipe notes, and is a fun dish for a child in any country.  Since my son and I had spent the day at a pumpkin patch, I thought it was quite appropriate to cook up a sweet sugar pie pumpkin and continue the celebration.

Slicing open a sugar pie pumpkin is harder than it looks (and no tips from the Pumpkin Kid). I would have had a real Halloween horror story on my hands if the knife had slipped. But, fortunately, I persevered, digits intact, and got it sawed apart. After scooping out the innards, a quick parboil prepares the “moon” for the “meat.”

Beautiful ... but still raw!
And really, the filling is a meatloaf – much loved in my house. Fairly straightforward and easy. I balked, however, when instructed to coat the outside of the pumpkin with ¼ lb. of butter. Pumpkin Kid, didn’t they know about cholesterol in 1983? I had to downsize the butter by half.

Here, the recipe loses some credence. The instructions say to cook for 45 minutes. But my pumpkin was still hard, so back it went for another 10. Then, the pumpkin was soft enough, but my meat was rare. At that point, fall festivities or no, my hungry family had had enough, and I finished it off with an additional 20 minutes in the microwave.

Though I love squash, I hadn’t eaten a pumpkin cooked as a savory side dish in quite awhile. I was pleasantly surprised by its mild flavor and texture. The meatloaf filling was mild, too, so we enjoyed dipping it in A1 and ketchup. It’s nice to have a dish that makes both the main and side dishes for you in one (fairly easy) swoop. As far as pumpkin dishes go, this was a nice change from the ubiquitous breads and muffins so popular this time of year.

And, Halloween Celebration Committee: My resume is available upon request.

“Meat-in-the-Moon” (Baked Stuffed Pumpkin)

1 medium pumpkin (the size of a child’s rubber ball, about 2 to 3 lbs.), unpeeled
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
A complete meal contained in one humble squash.
¼ cup bread crumbs
½ tsp. oregano
1 Tbs. pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ lb. melted butter
1 cup water
Parsley for garnish

Cut off the top of the pumpkin one-quarter of the way down from the top and put aside. Scoop out stringy membranes and seeds with a spoon. Put both pieces of pumpkin into a large pot of boiling, salted water and parboil for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix beef, onion, bread crumbs, oregano and pine nuts; salt and pepper to taste.  Drain pumpkin by placing upside down on paper towels and then fill the cavity with the meat mixture. Add the top as a cover. Place in a buttered baking dish, brush the outside of the pumpkin with melted butter and add 1 cup water to bottom of the dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 350-degrees in a preheated oven. To determine if pumpkin is done, remove top of pumpkin and pierce the inside flesh with a knife to see if it is tender. Remove carefully with two wide spatulas and place on a serving dish. Ring with sprigs of curly parsley.
Pumpkin Kid, are those go-go boots?

·       Don’t salt and pepper the RAW MEAT to taste. C’mon, Pumpkin Kid, we’ll soon be calling you the Salmonella Kid with this kind of behavior.
·      The recipe doesn't specify, but you'll want to use a sugar pumpkin. They're smaller, sweeter and much less stringy than the big "jack-o-lanterns."
·      As noted above, I used 2 T. melted butter.
·      My pumpkin and meat took about 65-70 minutes to cook. Start checking with your meat thermometer at 50 minutes. The size of your squash is going to make an impact here, obviously.

Why Don’t You …
·      Fill the pumpkin with your favorite meatloaf recipe. I think the pumpkin could really stand up to some more assertive spices or flavors.
·      What about making this more of a stuffed-pepper recipe? Scramble-fry the beef, onion and spices and then stuff? You may want to parboil the squash a bit longer in this case.
·      Add a quick drape of cheese over the meat, and then blast it in the broiler (pumpkin “lid” off) to brown it?
·      Consider dressing as the Pumpkin Kid on Halloween?


  1. A1 and ketchup - staples in our house.

  2. Saute the meat, onions etc PRIOR to stuffing the parboiled pumpkin or squash! This will reduce your cooking time as well as develop more flavors.