I grab a knife in a fit of desperation. The heavy metal in my hand is sobering. Bumps on the grip stabilize the sweaty hold but the flash of light off blade meets the glint in my eye and I know there is no turning back- I don’t want to.
With held breath and sharp focus- I sneak up silently, sidling in sinister glee to observe my prey. Unaware, she sits in her homemade paper costume, blissfully ignorant of what perils are in store on this Halloween day. Muahahahahah.
Her friend spies me. She vegetates beside her, all eyes. And now the two are struck still in trepidation; they don’t move. A gruesome grin spreads across my face as I reach out and take my target hostage. She is silent. As I lay her down on the wooden alter she says nothing and nothing still as I slice into her… but I cry. I can’t help it. I try to go on with my surgery but must step away. Washing my hands of their deeds offers momentary relief but as I return to her – I can barely look in her direction for my eyes well with tears again.
I must get rid of the evidence. Gathering her together I throw her into a cauldron of shimmering oil, where she finally finds a voice- hissing and squealing. I can’t stand it. I turn down the heat and place a lid over the carnage, I can’t think with the noise.
What to do next…
I turn back to my knife- yes. Now that I have a taste for killing I can’t stop. I spy my next victim. He is round and plump and blank. Accompanied by grotesquely smiling siblings, it is easy to separate him from this patch of bumpkins. Once he’s in my custody, I bathe him and dry him and coax him towards the alter. Then I hold my knife high and plunge it down. One stab, two, seven and the youngster is decapitated. I plunge my hands into his body cavity- removing his insides in slimy handfuls.
Ugh- I’m even grossing myself out here with this metaphor…. See the recipe below for a real Halloween treat!
Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours found on epicurious.com
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion thinly sliced
1 teaspoon brown sugar (dark or light)
1 small sugar pumpkin with stem, 3-5 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ loaf of country, crusty bread, cut into 1” cubes, stale or dried in a low oven
1/4 -1/2 lb mixed cheeses, cut into ½” cubes (I recommend a smoky cheese with something mellow and maybe nutty) gouda, emmenthal, gruyere, cheddar are all great
2–4 garlic cloves, chopped and/or 1 whole head of roasted garlic *See note
4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
To caramelize onions, drizzle olive oil in a large frying pan and heat over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot but not smoking add onions and stir with a wooden spoon. Add 2 teaspoons of the chopped fresh thyme and reduce heat to low. Cover the pan and allow to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle sugar over onions, stir, replace lid. Continue to cook stirring every once in a while for 30-45 minutes, until onions are caramelized. Once dark and soft and sweet, remove onions from heat and set aside.
Place racks in oven low enough so that the whole pumpkin on a baking sheet will fit inside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut a hole around the stem at an angle, as you would a jack-o-lantern. This opening should be large enough to fit your fist comfortably through. Remove the seeds and set aside. Scrape the pumpkin clear of strings then season the inside with salt and pepper. Cut any dangling strings from the lid. Place pumpkin on a lipped baking sheet or in a casserole to serve at the table. Sometimes the pumpkin can be difficult to move to servingware after baking.
In a medium bowl mix together bread cubes, cheese cubes, onion, chopped fresh garlic, the rest of the thyme and nutmeg. Fill pumpkin with the stuffing until nearly full then drizzle cream over the filling until it is moist. Replace the lid and place the whole thing in the oven. Bake for about 90 minutes to 2 hours until the pumpkin flesh is tender.
Slice pumpkin and dressing into slices and serve.
* Pumpkin seeds may be rinsed, dried, lishtly oiled, salted and roasted on a cookie sheet on the rack below pumpkin for about 15-20 minutes while the pumpkin bakes. Stir seeds half way through baking for evenness.
** A whole head of garlic may be wrapped in foil and roasted for an hour of bake time to be served along side the pumpkin in addition or instead of the chopped garlic added to the stuffing.