Saturday, October 8, 2011 Chili in a Pumpkin

No doubt about it, I love pumpkin season! Last year I discovered the joy of pumpkins as serving dishes. They keep the food hot, contain it in a beautiful way, they can also be eaten and tossed into the stock pot when you're done!

The other day at the Darien Farmers Market I picked up two perfect little pumpkins. It was my plan to fill them with Chicken Pot Pie but that plan quickly changed and I ended up filling one with some killer chili last night. Mmm, mmm, mmm. DDelicious!! \m/

The chili began with some chunks of beef browning in a large pan. I added some chopped onion along with some chopped black pepper from the garden and let that brown for a bit. Then I added some chopped garlic, a can of tomato sauce and one of my hot peter peppers that's STILL in the freezer from last year's garden. When cooking with these uber-hot peppers I only make a few slices in the flesh, so the food can come into contact with the seeds (where the heat is) but I can later fish the whole thing out to not totally overpower the dish with heat. I also added some chili powder at this point, but you don't really have to add all the seasonings up front. Their flavors will dissipate and change while the dish cooks and cooks, so you can take time to let the meat fall apart before you finish seasoning the chili.

It took hours for the meat to finally give way to a slight pulling of a fork. And the hot pepper, even though I'd taken it out within the first hour of cooking, permeated the dish to such an extent that I had to put both Hershey and Maple Syrup into the chili to soften the sting. I also added cayenne, cumin, cinnamon and oregano along with some frozen sweet corn and a handful of barley to thicken it up.

The pumpkin took a little time to prepare. I sliced the top straight off. No reason to open it like a Jack-o-Lantern, the lid wasn't going back (it actually went into the freezer for stock) and I scraped out the seeds, washed them, sprayed them with salt and oil and roasted them in the 350 degree oven. The pumpkin was also sprayed with oil on the inside and seasoned with salt and pepper before being baked in the same 350 degree oven for almost 30 minutes. It took a while for it to become fork tender, but it did, and I promptly filled it up with the waiting chili and topped it with cheese. I threw it back in for about five minutes to melt the cheese and Ta-friggin'-Da!

Outstanding dinner. There something yummy about chili made with chunks of meat instead of ground beef, we actually went back and filled the pumpkin again for seconds. And being able to scoop out chunks of pumpkin along with the chili made for an interesting flavor fight in my mouth - spicy and sweet, chunky and toothy, chili and pumpkin. Outstanding.

Seriously. Serve dinner in a pumpkin. Stew, chili, mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes, hot apple cider. Use your imagination and the possibilities are endless!

You can thank me later.



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