Wendy Gessell, who recently shared her Raspberry Ribbon Pie recipe, has been making a comforting mushroom, rice and sausage hotdish in a pumpkin shell for over 10 years. Wendy’s recipe has a nostalgic feel to it — like a casserole one might have sampled at grandma’s table back in the ‘60s. Her browning paper copy is typed on two half-sheets of paper, perhaps from a church cookbook published back in the day. This charming Pumpkin Shell Dinner recipe and quaint, personal notes are those of Mrs. Clayton Anderson.
1 (12-14 in.) pumpkin (prepared as directed below*)
1 lb. bulk sausage, cooked and drained
1 c. brown, wild or white rice (or a mixture), cooked
1 (10 1/2 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 (4 oz.) can mushrooms; those in butter sauce are good
Celery and onion, chopped as desired
Butter, salt and pepper, brown sugar
Brown the sausage in a large sauté pan. Mix sausage with rice, soup, mushrooms and cooked celery and onions. Spoon this mixture into the prepared pumpkin shell. Put pumpkin shell “lid” in place. Set in a large shallow baking pan, add 2 cups water to the pan and bake at 350°F for 2 hours. Serves 4-6.
* Choose a small (not more than 12-14 inches in diameter) pumpkin that will sit evenly in a pan. Cut a fairly large lid from the top. Scoop out the seeds and stringy portions and wash the pumpkin inside and out.
To serve, it is best to carry the whole, baked pumpkin to the table on a platter and have one person serve it. Spoon out the sausage and rice mixture and then cut squares of pumpkin from the opening to serve alongside. Have butter, salt, pepper and a small bowl of brown sugar on the table to season the pumpkin squares.
If any of the pumpkin shell is left, you can peel it, scrape away the remaining food, mash it and use as canned pumpkin. A pumpkin shell dinner retains heat well. Because the pumpkin shell “lid” keeps the steam inside, some moisture may accumulate. Mixtures that are not watery should be used. Foods with rice and noodles will absorb this mixture, but removing the cover the last 30 minutes of cooking will solve the problem.
A note from Wendy:
I try to make this recipe at least once a year and prefer one-half pound ground beef and one-half pound pork sausage and a mixture of one cup cooked wild rice and one cup cooked brown rice. I use two four-ounce cans of mushrooms but have never seen the ones in butter sauce that Mrs. Anderson proposed. Of course, fresh sliced mushrooms could be sautéed, as well. I suggest sautéing three stalks celery and one medium onion. I put a bottle of soy sauce on the table when I serve this hotdish — it seems to be a tasty addition.
A note from Carol: It’s Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. I feel blessed — and ever so grateful — for many wonderful people, experiences and things in my life. I hope you do, too.
If you are making one last trip to the grocery store perhaps you will consider picking up a pumpkin to fill with Wendy’s hotdish or a creation of your own. I think it’s an innovative, enticing way to serve just about anything this time of year.